Cookery Maven Blog

Cranberry & Quince Preserves

The Owl And The Pussycat Edward Lear

Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will." So they took it away, and were married next day By the Turkey who lives on the hill. They dined on mince, and slices of quince, Which they ate with a runcible spoon; And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, They danced by the light of the moon, The moon, The moon, They danced by the light of the moon.

In my search to find a new preserve to serve with pâté and cheese, I ran across a recipe with what seemed like a beautiful combination— quince, cranberry and ginger. Not being one to let a little thing like difficulty in locating or unfamiliarity with an ingredient stop me, I decided this preserve was 'the one'. The entire breadth and depth of my experience with quince could be summed in five words: quince paste and manchego cheese, I had never eaten or even seen a quince before. Given the fact I live in Bayfield and exotic fruits are not part of the food scene up here, I knew I may have a problem. Julie came to my rescue, went to the Co-op in Ashland and special ordered a case of the most lovely yellow misshapen orbs I had laid eyes on.

Quince are an ancient fruit, cultivated sometime between 200 B.C.E and 100 B.C.E in Mesopotamia. While they are a member of the apple and pear family, they were cultivated long before apples and many ancient references, like Eve's forbidden fruit, were most likely quince, not apple. They are also associated, in Greek mythology, with love, marriage, fertility and Aphrodite. I had no idea quinces were basically the fruit equivalent of love potion number 9, a matchmaker and a fertility goddess all rolled into a baseball sized package. While it's pretty much inedible raw (it has a tart, astringent flavor and dry texture), it comes to life when cooked. It's unique fragrance, a mixture of pineapple, guava and pear, combined with its sweet apple and rose petal perfumey flavor are enough to make me swoon, or dance by the light of the moon.

Cranberry & Quince Preserves(Adapted from Apt. 2B Baking Co.)

1 1/2 lbs fresh or frozen cranberries
1 1/2 lbs peeled, cored, and diced quince (1/2'' sized pieces)
4 cups dark brown sugar
3 cups water
2 oz peeled and grated fresh ginger, about a 3'' long piece
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1/4 tsp cloves
Zest and juice of one lemon
Zest and juice of one orange
Cleaned and sterilized jars and lids

In a large pot over medium high heat dissolve the sugar into the water, then add the cranberries, chopped quince, grated ginger, crystallized ginger, cloves, lemon zest and juice, and the orange zest and juice. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the quince is soft, the cranberries have popped and the mixture has thickened slightly, about 45 minutes.

Ladle the hot preserves into prepared jars, wipe the rims with a clean towel and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Makes about 4 pints.