Thursday, March 31, 2016

Quince Jelly

Since my last post our hot summer has been and almost gone, although by the look of the forecast we still have some temps in the high thirties ahead of us yet. 
Over the summer we have completed a very exciting project; piping 'good' water to the homestead. 

By good I mean less salty. In fact the new water has half the salt content of the old and that is a significant development for my garden and for the homestead itself. I am hopeful that next summer, with the aid of shade cloth and the good water,  I will be able to grow a variety of vegetables in spite of the heat. 

I have started planting the winter vegetable garden using both seeds and seedlings. I will have to nurse them along (water twice a day) for a few more weeks of hot weather but its great to get a bit of a head start before winter sets in.

Yesterday morning I picked this year's whole crop of quinces- a grand total of 7 fruit. With such a small number I had to decide if I'd cook them to eat now or preserve and enjoy all year. I opted for year round enjoyment and set about making that gorgeously deep pink, delicious accompaniment to roast lamb and pork; quince and rosemary jelly. 

Jellies are not difficult to make but they do take a bit of time. A few  things you need to know to be successful are:
1. Use very fresh fruit-for a good 'set' 
2. Don't try to get extra juice by squeezing the cloth- as this will result in a cloudy jelly. 
3. Put all the peel and pips in with the fruit as they contain high levels of pectin which is the setting agent.

It also helps to have a pot big enough that evaporation happens relatively quickly or you you may end up with very little jelly before it actually sets. 

Quince (or Apple) and Rosemary Jelly

Rinse and roughly chop a minimum of 1kg of fruit (apples or quinces) and place in a large non- reactive saucepan. 
Add a couple of sprigs of rosemary. 
Cover with water and  bring to boil. Simmer until the fruit is very soft. 

Line a colander with muslin and pop over a large bowl. Strain the fruit through the muslin, collecting all the liquid. You can usually green a bit of extra liquid by hanging the bag over the bowl, as per my 'setup' in the photo on the right. Leave fruit to drain at least 6 hours or overnight.

Measure the liquid into a large saucepan and for every cup of liquid add 3/4 cup of sugar. Stir just until sugar dissolves.
Bring to boil and keep boiling fairly quickly until the jelly is deep pink or red and sets when tested on a cold plate. (This can be hard to judge if you haven't done it before (and even when you have!) It is better to under cook than over cook because you can always tip the jelly out of the jars and re-boil if not set but you can't undo toffee! 

Pour into clean sterilised jars into which you have placed a sprig of clean rosemary. Seal when cool. 

You may remember that a looong time ago I promised you a photo of a caper flower? Well this morning I finally remembered to do it. The bushes are looking really pretty at the moment because I've got enough capers to last a year and I've had enough of picking them!  I read just this morning that not only can you eat the buds and berries but also the leaves once pickled. Sounds interesting, I might have to give them a go. 
As you can see the flowers are very delicate and beautiful and, I think, quite orchid like. They have a lovely scent also. Unfortunately they don't last more than a couple of hours once picked. 

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