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Quince Jelly recipe (also works with Japonica quinces)

rotten quinceOur friend Bunty gave us a Portuguese quince tree three years ago. Besides being very decorative, with dark branches and lazy, floppy leaves it produces the large firm fruit that make the tastiest jelly. Mature quince jelly (over six months old) turns a gorgeous amber colour.

The first year our tree produced one small quince. It bore three last year and this year suddenly came into its own. The crop would be at least ten. The fruit are quite big so there would be enough to make more than jelly. Anne Mary and I poured over her old recipe books. We could make quince marmalade or try our hand at Membrillo. Greedily I watched the quinces mature and fatten. Imagine my horror when I noticed that the fruit was splitting and rotting on the tree. The cause, I discovered, was lack of water.

It’s easy to forget trees in a drought. Especially when they have done well in their first couple of years. Old established trees have much deeper roots and can find water more easily than younger, smaller trees. It would have been so easy to take a spur from the drip watering system in the kitchen garden to the quince tree. I just didn’t think.

Our poor pear harvest was probably due to lack of water. I am going to give both trees a dressing of rich compost from our composter and cosset them this winter. Hopefully the bees will boost the germination of the blossom next spring. Our bees arrived just as the blossom was going over this year.

I managed to harvest two half quinces and they are simmering on the stove as I write this. The aroma from the simmering quinces is richly fruity. We’ll be lucky to make a couple of small jars. One for Anne Mary and one for us, as an inspiration for next year.

Quince Jelly recipe (this works well with Japonica quinces too)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of quinces
  • 1 lemon (just the juice, sieved)
  • white granulated sugar
  • water to cover

Method:

  1. Wash and roughly chop the quinces (no need to peel, decore or depip) and place in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
  2. Barely cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently with a lid on until soft. If the quinces are very firm this could take several hours. Check it every now and then and add more water if necessary.
  3. Pour the cooked fruit through sterilised muslin into a large clean bucket or bowl (how do I sterilise muslin/the jelly bag? See tips and tricks below). The muslin is often referred to as a “jelly bag”. We use tall buckets to catch the drips from the jelly bags. Rather than hang the bags (conventional method-between the legs of an upturned stool) I find it easier to line a large plastic sieve with the muslin. This clips neatly onto the top of a clean bucket. The sieve is covered with a clean tea cloth to protect against flies.
  4. Leave the jelly bag to drip overnight (or about 12 hours).
  5. Measure the juice the next day.
  6. Pour the juice into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan and add 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar for each 1pt/570ml of juice.
  7. Add the lemon juice.
  8. Heat the juice and sugar gently stirring from time to time, so as to make sure that that all the sugar has dissolved before bringing the liquid slowly to the boil.
  9. Continue to boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set. This is called a rolling boil. Test every 3 to 5 minutes until setting point is reached. (What is testing for a set? See tips and tricks below). Tossing in a nugget of butter towards the end will reduce the frothing that can occur.
  10. When jelly has reached setting point pour into warm sterilised jars using a funnel and ladle. (How do I sterilise jars? See tips and tricks below).
  11. Cover immediately with plastic lined screw top lids or waxed disks and cellophane tops secured with a rubber band. If you don’t think that the jelly has set properly, you can reboil it the next day. The boiling reduces the water in the jelly. I have done this in the past. Ideally you should try for the right set the first time.
  12. Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place. Away from damp.

Tips and tricks:

  • What is a jelly bag?
    A jelly bag is traditionally a piece of muslin but it can be cheesecloth, an old thin tea cloth or even a pillowcase. The piece needs to be about 18″ square. When your fruit is cooked and ready to be put in the jelly bag, lay your cloth over a large bowl. Pour the fruit into the centre of the cloth and tie the four corners together so that they can be slung on a stick to drip over the bowl. Traditionally a stool is turned upside down, the stick is rested on the wood between the legs and the jelly bag hangs over the bowl. We experimented and now line a sieve with muslin, place it over a bucket and cover the lot with clean tea cloths (against the flies).
  • How do I sterilise muslin/the jelly bag?
    Iron the clean jelly bag with a hot iron. This method will also sterilise tea cloths.
  • Jelly “set” or “setting point”?
    Getting the right set can be tricky. I have tried using a jam thermometer but find it easier to use the following method.
    Before you start to make the jelly, put a couple of plates in the fridge so that the warm jam can be drizzled onto a cold plate (when we make jam we often forget to return the plate to the fridge between tests, using two plates means that you have a spare cold plate). When testing for a set drizzle some jelly into the cold plateand return the plate to the fridge to cool for approx two minutes. It has set when you run your finger through it and leave a crinkly track mark. If after two minutes the cooled jam is too liquid, continue to boil the jelly, testing it every few minutes until you have the right set. The jelly is far more delicious if it is slightly runny. It does get firmer after a few months.
  • How do I sterilise the jars and lids?
    We collect jars all year round for our jelly, chutney and jam making sessions. I try to soak off labels and store the clean jars and metal plastic coated screw-top lids in an accessible place. The sterilising method that we use is simple. Just before making the jam, I quickly wash and rinse the jars and place them upside down in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 160c/140c for fan assisted. When the oven has reached the right temperature I turn off the heat. The jars will stay warm for quite a while. I only use plastic lined lids for preserves as the all-metal lids can go rusty. I boil these for five minutes in water to sterilise them. If I use Le Parfait jars, I do the same with the rubber rings.

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162 Comments

  1. Hi everyone

    I just found some fruit whilst taking a lnchtime walk around the site I work on. Picked one and some leaves for identification (I’ve recently been bitten by the foraging bug!) and found it is a quince. There’s about 50 small bushes planted in 2 patches so I’ll go back in a week or two with a large bag!

    After reading through this blog of 5 years (phew!) I’m going to prepare to make membrillo and jelly. Just need to find a few dozen jars…

    Thanks to you all, especially Fiona for starting this thread – I’m confident I’ll have plenty to give out as Christmas pressies this year 🙂

    Jason

  2. Good recipe which I will try with a combination of quinces and japonica. One small point. As long as the muslin is clean, you don’t need to sterilise it. Boiling the fluid with sugar the next day ensures that any yeasts and bacteria are killed off.
    David

  3. freddy

    hi from New-Zealand ,
    I have a JAPONICA tree which flowered and then of course had fruit which eventually fell to the ground. As I enjoy making jams and preserves etc from fruit and vegetables I looked on the computer to see if I could do anythig from the fruit of the Japonica. Come across your marvelous and informative website , so went ahead and made the jelly . One of the quickest fruits I have come across to set. Yes it has a sharp taste but it is devine with blue cheese and a slice pear or on crackers with blue cheese . My daughters love it .
    I found your website so informative and so much fun to read , keep it up .

  4. Hi there, have just made the quince jelly but with japonica quinces. As per the recipe I roughly chopped the fruit and didn’t core or de-pip, boiled it all up and strained it and then made the jelly. But now I am a bit worried that the pips are poisonous and that I should have removed them.
    Please tell me I am being silly. I want to give a jar to the old man who let me pick his fruit but I don’t want to poison him or my own family!
    It tastes lovely and I haven’t keeled over yet!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Amanda

      You need to include the cores and pips when you make the jelly. The jelly is totally 100% safe to eat!

  5. Kathy Swan

    Hello there – I made huge quantities of quince cheese and jelly last year from your recipes but threw it all out because it was much too sweet for me and I felt I couldn’t give it away if I didn’t like it. I wish I’d thought just to add more lemon juice as suggested above.

    I vowed I’d never bother again but as I have a quince tree in the garden which this year was absolutely laden I couldn’t bear to let the fruit go to waste. I have made the cheese with slightly less sugar and am about to make the jelly so will add more lemon juice.

    I live in France and the French have recipes for crumbles – quince and almond, quince and prune compote – quince, prune and orange
    tartlets – quince and sweet spices.

    I have never seen them in the shops here though.

    Thanks for taking the time to run a terrific site.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hope that it goes well, Mary!

  7. I’m about to embark on my first venture into preserve making with a crop of quince from my garden shrub. In previous years I’ve just left the quince and done nothing with it. I was so pleased to find this recipe says I don’t have to do any peeling! I’ve just bought a jelly bag and have a few jars at the ready!I’ll let you know how it goes.

  8. Re tarter quince jelly – I used less sugar, and it is a really great sharp taste now (mouth-puckering)but it has only just set – I have to use a tea spoon instead of a knife to get it out of the jar. Does the amount of sugar affect the set, or is it wholly due to the amount of pectin / lemons in the mix?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Robin

      Yes the amount of sugar does affect the set and the life span of the jelly as the sugar is a preservative. To get a tarter taste add more lemon juice. The jelly shouldn’t be hard set.

  9. This quince jelly sounds lovely. I’ve just made some quince wine and made quince cheese from the left over pulp – the cheese is delicious, hoping the wine will be too.

  10. Just making my first batch of Quince Jelly and currently busy performing the ‘set test’ taking a while longer to get there but tasted a little and it’s wonderful..sharp and tangy…think I’m hooked!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Jacs

      The jelly/jam making bug is a real blessing. I do hope that you never recover 🙂

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