Zesty quince jelly with ginger and cardamom

Making jam and jelly is a great way to preserve the fresh flavour of ripe, seasonal fruit. And as quinces are in season now, now’s the perfect moment to pick up a fresh batch and make quince jelly.

With their subtle, rosy flavour, quinces will make a delicious jelly all on their own. But as they pair so well with other fruits and spices, adding in just a few extras will make your palate sing. In this zesty version, their flavour is complemented by the fresh notes of lemon and cardamom, sliced ginger for a warming kick and a cinnamon stick for a sweet and friendly finish. Once jarred and stored, this quince jelly will keep your belly happy in the winter months to come. And if you’re feeling generous and use pretty jars and nice labels, it also makes a lovely festive gift.

quince jelly

Jam making is easier than you may think. There is a bit of science involved in turning your fruit into a well-set, spreadable jelly, but getting there is actually quite straightforward. All you need is your fruit, sugar, pectin and a bit of acidity to make them all interact.

Starting with the fruit. When nice and ripe, quinces smell lovely and inviting, but they’re actually rock-hard and inedible in their raw state. Slowly poaching them brings out their sweet nature and it’s the perfect way to add the extra flavours you’re looking for. If you poach them in sweetened, flavoured liquid, you’ll end up with two treats in one go. First: a batch of beautifully poached quinces, that can be mashed into compote and stirred into porridge, or left whole, to serve as a tart filling or to add something special to a platter of savoury bites. And second: the drained poaching liquid, infused with the flavours of the quinces and the added spices, to be turned into your jelly. To get the liquid for the jelly in the recipe below, I made a double batch of my ginger and cardamom-spiced poached quinces; you’ll find the recipe here.

Next: pectin. Pectin is the gelling agent that helps jams and jelly to set. It is a polysaccharide naturally present in the cell walls of plants and different fruits and as it happens, the skin and seeds of quinces are particularly rich in it. If you cook them along with the quince flesh, they will release the pectin into the poaching liquid and in turn help the jelly to set more easily.

When you add pectin to water all by itself, it will stay more or less inactive. It needs the addition of a small amount of acid for it to start making the gelatinous strands that make the jelly set. Fortunately, quinces pair wonderfully with citrus fruits. I made the compote extra zesty just because it tastes so good, but the lemon juice will do its bit in the making of the jelly as well.

Sugar is needed both for the jelly to set and for the preservation of it, because if the sugar content in the jelly is high enough, germs can’t grow in it. This high enough sugar concentration can be reached in two ways. If you reduce the poaching liquid by simply boiling it down, the sugar added in the original recipe will be concentrated until high enough for the jelly to set. As part of the poaching liquid evaporates, all the flavours in the liquid will be concentrated likewise, which means this method yields a small amount of dark-coloured, deep-flavoured jelly.

quince jelly

The second way of upping the sugar content in the poaching liquid enough to turn it into a jelly, is by simply adding extra. This means you won’t lose any volume of poaching liquid to the air and you’ll end up with a lot more jam for your efforts. Obviously, the colour and flavour of this jam will be less profound, but it will still taste very good. If, besides the sugar, you add extra pectin to the liquid and work according to package instructions, you won’t have to cook the liquid down at all and you’ll have your jelly ready within minutes.

Which method to use is a matter of personal preference and that’s why I’m describing both of them below. Both will yield a batch of beautiful, naturally pink jelly with a fresh and zesty flavour. If you’re up for variation and would like to make a more sweet and festive-spiced jelly, this recipe works equally well if you use the poaching liquid from my quince compote with vanilla and star anise.

Happy cooking!

quince jelly

Zesty quince jelly with ginger and cardamom – method 1: simple reduction

This will make 1 large or 2 smaller jars of jelly with a deep colour and a concentrated quince flavour.

Ingredients

 

Preparation

Put a small plate in the freezer and get your sterilised jars ready on a wooden board or damp towel (see tip below).

Pour the poaching liquid into a pan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Stirring regularly, reduce the liquid to 2/3 of its original volume, then start testing for doneness.

quince jelly

To test if the jelly is set, pour a teaspoonful of the hot liquid on the chilled plate. Leave to cool for a minute, then run your finger (or a spoon) through the drop. If the surface wrinkles and your finger leaves a clear trail, the jelly is ready. If the liquid runs back into the gap left by your finger, rinse the plate and return it to the freezer. Reduce the liquid a bit more, then test again until the desired consistency is reached.

When ready, take the pan off the heat. Scoop off any froth floating on the surface, then pour the hot jelly into the prepared jars to fill them almost to the top. Tap to remove air bubbles, than close the lids and turn the jars upside down. Leave to stand like that for a few minutes, then put the jars upright again and leave to cool. The jelly will set as it cools.

Label and store in a cool, dry place for up to half a year. Keep refrigerated after opening and use within a few weeks.

quince jelly

Zesty quince jelly with ginger and cardamom – method 2: with added sugar and pectin

Adding extra pectin in addition to the amount naturally present in the poaching liquid will help the jelly to set more quickly. This means you’ll need less time to cook it down and you’ll be left with a larger batch of jelly. As the non-reduced poaching liquid is more watery, you’ll need extra sugar as well for the jelly to set properly. This method will make about 6 jars of lighter coloured jelly, with a light fruity flavour.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre infused poaching liquid, drained from 2 batches of my poached quinces with ginger and cardamom
  • 400 g sugar
  • pectin crystals, dosed according to package instructions, OR you can use pectin-enriched preserving sugar instead

 

Preparation

Get your prepared glass jars ready on a wooden board or damp towel (see tip below).

Pour the poaching liquid into a large pan and add the sugar and pectin.

Bring to a boil. Whisk well and leave to boil for about 4 minutes (check the instructions on the package of pectin or preserving sugar you’re using and adjust if needed).

Skim off any froth floating on the surface, then pour the hot jelly into the prepared jars to fill them almost to the top. Tap to remove air bubbles, than close the lids and turn the jars upside down. Leave to stand like that for a few minutes, then put the jars upright again and leave to cool. The jelly will set as it cools.

Label and store in a cool, dry place for up to half a year. Keep refrigerated after opening and use within a few weeks.

Tip – How to prepare your jars for bottling jam or jelly

  • Clean your jars and lids with hot soapy water, or get the dishwasher to do the work for you. In general, a dishwasher cycle will clean and dry the jars well enough for bottling preserves, which means you won’t have to sterilise them further. Sometimes, though, the jars come out of the dishwasher with water droplets still inside, and then it’s advisable to dry them, like hand-washed ones, in the oven as below.
  • Heat the oven to 140°C/275°F. Place the wet jars and lids on a baking sheet and leave them to dry in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • When possible, fill and close the jars shortly after sterilising. Make sure not to touch the inside of the jars and lids in the mean time.

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