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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. Elizabeth Harris

    Hello everyone,
    I was reading all the responses on Quince. As a professional Jam and Jelly maker here IN Alexander, NY, with 41 years under my belt, I have noticed that only a few ladies mentioned the Quince coming out a light Rose Color. Here in the states, most of my consummers perferr the Ruby Red Quince Jelly vs the Amber Jelly, and I have found the when selling the Rose Colored Quince I get a better response from folks. Most of my Q Trees are over 75 years old, and I am now grafting them onto Granny Smith Trees, to keep my
    Old trees”alive” and florshing.
    I love Q ince Jelly.

  2. Moira Conlan

    Hi I have just made my first Japonica Jelly, family verdict is fabulous!! An old lady many years ago gave me a lot of tips about jam/jelly making and one that I have found great was to use melted wax(candle) to seal my jams, this keeps the jam very fresh and moist, I melt the wax in a mug in boiling water and spoon it over the jam making sure that it is completely sealed.

  3. I have just make this jelly (using the fruit of Chaenomeles), my first foray into home-made jams, jellies, wine and beer, and I am delighted! Thank you so much. I can’t wait to make more things from your website.

    The jelly is a little on the runny side, but I did suspect that it wasn’t quite set enough, and I took it off the cooker all the same. I figured I would rather have runny jelly than too solid to spread, and you suggest it gets firmer with time. How long can I expect this to keep? Are there any recipes in which I can use my now copious quantities of quince jelly? I still have lots of quinces left over too.

    After years of searching for quince jelly at farmers markets and fairs, I now have enough of my own to see me through until next season’s quinces, and without paying £3-4 per jar!! Thnaks again.

  4. I just discovered it was enough with the reboil, it had set lovely and the flavor is deliciuos.
    Thank you so much for sharing your recipies and explaind everything in detail!!!

  5. Hi,i follow your recipe step by step(quince jelly), after let drip through a muslin cloth over night i collected 3 pints of juice, then add the juice of 1 lemon and 3 lbs of sugar, bring it slowly to boil, but it had a syrupy look at suggested i reboil it today and still havent set, any suggestions?
    Thank you for your great website

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Lorena

      I think that you had too much water in the simmer stage. The boiling up process evaporates the water until setting point is reached.

      There are two things that you could do. Add some pectin (available in powder form from supermarkets – follow the manufacturers instructions) or add the juice of another lemon and then try gently boiling up again.

      Hope that this helps.

  6. Hola!
    I live in Spain and am a keen cook. My Nan used to make Quince Jelly from the tree in her garden and I loved it. She has not been with us for nearly 10 years now. I found some quinces at our local market last week and decided to give it a try. I now have five beautiful, jewel like jars of perfectly set quince jelly! Happy girl! Thanks Nan. I love to cook because of you!
    Great website. Really enjoying everyone’s comments.
    Thank you!

  7. Hello, thanks for providing such a lovely and informative website, found after a Google search for “how do you tell if a quince is ripe?”!

    Having had a bumper crop of James Greave apples, I have been busy making various apple-based chutneys (never made chutney before, can’t wait to try it)…now I am ready to move onto quinces, having found that our ornamental Japonica has produced its first ever crop.

    Thanks to everyone for their info and advice, boiling begins tomorrow!

  8. Who knew just how therapeutic making quince jelly could be?! My family has had a really difficult time this last month and the offer of a bag of quinces from a friend’s garden diverted my mind and made me look up recipes. Standing making the jelly at all sorts of odd times during the night and day has been really soothing, plus the bonus of a line of full jars. Thanks for a great site.

  9. Christine

    Hurrah Quince time again. I’ve just had about 15 kilos givento me by my neighbours so Now I’ve started making the jelly. Simplicity itself.
    1 Scrub to get fluff off.
    2 Cut up and remove any worms ,not too many this year,and brown bits.
    3 Put in very large pan ,I find that 2 kilos of quince is managable, just cover with water and boil gently for as long as it takes for the quinces to become soft enough to mash with a potato masher.
    4 Put in a jelly bag and strain over night.I never squeeze bag as I find it makes the jelly cloudy with a different texture, more jammy.
    5 Add juice of 2 lemons and 1 kilo of sugar per litre of juice heat slowly untill suger disolves then boil fast until setting point is reached.
    6 Put into sterilized jars.
    7 Distribute among my family, friends and
    neighbours
    We love it as an accompaniment to pork but it goes with cold meat very well and my french neighbours eat it as jam on their biscotte and tartine.
    This year I’m going to experiment and try to make some quince chutney so if any one has a tried and tested recipe could they please post it here.

  10. Can i cook my japonica quinces in the slow cooker,before i make the jelly on the stove top.?

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