Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Quince Marmalade, and Heavenly Baked Apples

I stuck my head deep into the preserves cupboard looking for jam, and found a long-forgotten jar of quince marmalade. More than two years old, it was still a lovely pink, and had retained its heady scent and delicate flavour. So we had toasted cheese sandwiches for lunch, with a good blob of marmalade on the side; and baked apples stuffed with quince for dinner. I dotted the apples with a bit of butter, and poured a little water into the pan in which they stood. Some of the marmalade oozed out of the apples and combined with the butter and water to make a luscious sticky syrup, which I scraped up and drizzled over the apples before serving.

Before you sniff that marmalade is made with citrus fruit, let me tell you that, according to no less an authority than the Oxford English Dictionary, the word 'marmalade' has its roots in the Portuguese word 'marmelo', or quince. From this came 'marmelada', referring to quince preserves (jam or paste), and from there, the English 'marmalade'.

Although it's a bit late for quinces, there are still a few bobbing around the markets. If you find some, put them in a bowl in your kitchen; the room will fill with their aroma. You can enjoy their scent for a few deliciously fragrant days before making marmalade.

Quince Marmalade

- 4 respectably heavy quinces, about 750g
- 4 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- juice and grated zest of an orange

Rub the fuzz off the fruit, core them, then grate them coarsely. A food processor is the easiest way. If you are using a hand grater, really gouge the fruit into the grater to get good thick threads. Alternatively, julienne the fruit, cutting it into slender even strips.

Bring the sugar and water to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the quinces. They will float, so stir and push them under the water with a wooden spoon until they sink. Add the orange zest, turn down the heat, and leave to simmer very gently for 1½ hours, or until the quinces have turned deep pink.

Leave to cool overnight. The next day, add the orange juice and bring back to the boil. Turn down the heat and cook gently for another hour or so, or until you have a wet marmalade. Pour into clean sterilized jars and seal.

Adapted from a recipe by Deborah Madison in The Savory Way.

(Local: quince, orange. Not local: sugar.)

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