Easy-peasy quince jam

Kaya and I got sick last week, and it took me until just about now to feel like an actual human again. (Luckily things went a bit faster for Kaya.) It wasn’t anything serious, just a cold/cough double whammy, but it was compounded by lack of sleep and left me feeling like anything I touched would be instantly and irreversibly contaminated. Thus, I was a little while in making that quince jam that I mentioned a while back. (I did eat a fair amount of quince fresh, though, and that was nice.)
With my gumption restored, I set myself to the task and I bring you, without further ado (but sadly not many photos since I had to wait until the boys were asleep at night to do the bulk of the work), my mother-in-law’s completely foolproof quince jam:

As you can see, a cast of thousands is not required.

PRESSURE COOKER QUINCE JAM
1 kg. quince (this is the weight of the grated fruit, not the whole fruit)
I lemon
1 kg. sugar
10 cloves
1/4 c. water
cheesecloth

(If you are not a kitchen scale type, I did measure out the sugar and the quince, and it works out to be about 4 1/2 cups of sugar and 8 cups of quince. However, I would make it 5 cups of sugar to 10 cups of quince because it’s never good to have jam that is overly sweet. )

1. Wash the fuzz off your quince, if it still has it (I’ve noticed that the quince at the market has already been divested).

2. Squeeze the lemon and pour the juice into the pressure cooker and dump the sugar in there as well.

3. Grate the quince on a box grater or in a food processor, and weigh it as you go along. (I do not peel beforehand, but you can if you prefer.) Save the cores! I grate in batches, weigh, and add to the pot and mix it with the sugar. This is because I hate to watch all that grated quince turn brown. Let me hasten to add, however, that browned quince turns into handsome jam for reasons that will become clear. So there is no need to go crazy unless, like me, you already are.

4. Once you’ve got a kilo of grated quince, go ahead and grate a few more for good measure, if you have them, and add them to the pot for good luck.

5. Gather up your quince cores and break them in half to reveal the seeds. Collect any seeds that are not buggy or moldy and tie them in a square of cheesecloth. (I could not find my cheesecloth so I ended up emptying a teabag. This also works. You just don’t want free-range seeds.) The seeds are crucial to the color of the jam. Without them, you get a wan, yellowy jam. The seeds give your jam a rich carnelian color.

5. In another square of cheesecloth, tie up the cloves and throw that in the pot.

6. Add the water.

7. Close your pressure cooker up and bring it to high pressure over medium high heat. Turn the heat down and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes.

8. Enjoy the sweet perfume of quince that fills your kitchen, like lemongrass and rose.

9. Bring the pressure right down after the 10 minutes and open the cooker.

What you see will most likely be discouragingly runny and not rich carnelian. Do not despair. Leave the jam alone for a while with its seeds (say, overnight or three hours even) and when you come back to it and give it a stir you will find that it is very thick indeed, and red like hot lava.

See the seeds in there? See the color?

10. Fish out your seeds and cloves and bring the jam back up to a boil to get it nice and hot for packing. Then scoop it into sterilized jars. If you like, you can toss a clove or two into each jar. I ended up with 5 jars but the photo I took of them was ugly.

And that’s it! I love this jam because it is so easy and it always sets. I have made a lot of runny jam and even though people are kind enough to say things like, “Oh, it will be great with pancakes!” I find it pretty depressing. This is jam that you can slice like bread. Every. Time.

In My Kitchen, October 2012

The clouds had been gathering all day, but when the first fat raindrops began to fall, it felt like a surprise. Within about five minutes, the rain was coming down in sheets; Kaya and I were making dinner in the kitchen, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to get it to the house without getting soaked. (Umbrella to the rescue.)
When we woke up this morning, the air felt as if it had been scrubbed clean. It was the first morning that had the air of an autumn day, redolent with the smells of damp leaves and soaked earth. Everything seemed clearer and brighter, and the kitchen seemed particularly inviting. So, without further ado, I offer the first glimpse of the kitchen this fall. (To see what’s happening in the mother lode of kitchen glimpses, head over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.)
In my kitchen…

…there is the distinct feeling that the maximillian sunflowers are about to stage a world takeover. They are great because they explode into bloom at the very tail end of summer/beginning of fall when everything else is swooning from the heat. Another sign that fall is here at last.

… there is a bowl of popcorn from the garden. Baki and I planted some Dakota Black popping corn and we harvested it a few weeks ago from skeletal, dried out plants. Out of the blue, Baki asked for popcorn this morning right after we ate breakfast, so we tried it out. After much energetic popping, I am pleased to report that it is unbelievably tasty — I swear, it tastes buttery! I like, too, how it looks burnt, but it’s just the hulls and kernels from the corn.

… there are quince, ready to be eaten. These might look green and unappetizing, but they are sweet and fragrant once you get them out of their fuzzy peels. Ali picked them from the tree, which was bent almost double under the weight of the fruit, and we’ve eaten plenty of them already. I will be making quince jam this week, and will post the recipe. It’s my mother-in-law’s no-fail easy-peasy pressure-cooker quince jam.

So these sights, smells and flavors of fall have gotten me well and fully appraised of the change of seasons. Summer is but a sweaty memory. I’m digging out the wellies and the sweaters. Hooray for fall!

Happy Banana

There is a special thrill, isn’t there, in growing something yourself? What is sweeter than that hard earned carrot or the strawberry that you hunt down yourself, peeking under leaves on your hands and knees? I am still suffused with pleasure when I can walk back from the garden with an armful of lettuce (and I am looking forward to lettuce weather — I don’t bother with it in the heat of the summer).

I admit that I take some of the garden workhorses a bit for granted; radishes, with their dogged reliability are like loyal friends that are all too easy to under-appreciate, and even home-grown tomatoes can begin to taste simply good and normal by the end of the summer (until you end up face to face with a supermarket tomato, that is).

Some things, though, dazzle us just by making an appearance.

In all likelihood, we will probably never be able to eat these three bananas, but it is so thrilling to see fruit on the tree that it hardly matters. (And I like the way the canna nearby makes it look like a tropical garden… if you squint a bit and use your imagination…)

This banana tree is located at the outlet of one of our drainpipes, so it gets plenty of grey water throughout the year. And every winter it dies way back only to re-emerge late in the spring. I saw lots of banana trees groaning under the weight of their fruits growing up, but this meager bunch has us beaming with pride. Good old banana tree.