Regular Food in Jars contributor Alexandra Jones is here today with a recipe for homemade quince butter. Quince is one of my favorites and I loved this glimpse into her process! -Marisa
Quince is one of my favorite fruits to preserve — and where I am in Pennsylvania, it’s also one of the hardest to find.
Luckily, I happened on a farmers’ market in Old City Philadelphia recently where Beechwood Orchards, the only farm I know to offer quince at retail, happened to have a single crate on their stand. After sending out a quick alert over social media — quince spotted! — I promptly bought several pounds.
It may seem silly to go so wild over a fruit that, when grown in a temperate climate, you can’t even eat raw, although its floral scent will perfume any room in which you stash your fruit. Quince flesh is dry, tannic, and unpalatable until you poach slices in syrup or cook it down with sugar into a thick paste, when it becomes tender, toothsome, vibrant and bright, with that unmistakable floral note.
The traditional way to prepare quince is as quince paste, or membrillo — cooking down the mixture so long with sugar that it becomes a firm, sliceable brick after refrigeration, still tender in texture but more like a fruit cheese than a spread.
But knowing that I might not come upon quince again for another few years, I decided to find a way to can it, with visions of giving some away for the holidays. It’s delightful to serve on a cheese board alongside aged wedges made the traditional way. I found a Williams-Sonoma recipe for inspiration and set to work.
While parts of the recipe were really out-of-whack — the quince were supposed to redden in 20 minutes, according to the recipe, but this took closer to three hours in my kitchen, and resting the pot off the heat didn’t help redden them at all — I ended up with a dreamy finished product.
It isn’t a chunky jam nor a runny compote, and it’s not a firm-set fruit cheese more reminiscent of membrillo. The best way I can describe it is quince butter — despite the sugar added.
It’s lush, smooth, and stands up on a spoon in a way that’s reminiscent of my favorite long-cooked, no-sugar butters made with sweeter fruits. Spread it on a thick slice of toast with good cultured butter, drizzle it over drop biscuits with whipped cream or ice cream, or spoon an artful dollop onto your next cheese board.
While it might take a little effort to track down quince in your area, those of you in the northeast may still be able to track some down (I assume you may also have luck in California, though I’m not sure of the fruit’s season out there.) I’ve also seen specimens grown overseas at Asian markets here in Philly. But once you get your hands on some and get a taste , you’ll know if was worth it.
My four pounds of quince cooked down into six pints of supple, rosy butter over a few hours on low heat, but you should be able to halve (or double) this recipe without issue. I canned mine in a mix of half-pints and quarter-pints, perfect for gifting or bringing to a party — or hoarding all to yourself.
I also swapped out the spices in the original recipe with a few long sprigs of rosemary from my garden. I might add another the next time I make this, hopefully sooner than later.
How to Make Quince Butter
- 4 pounds quince
- 7 cups sugar
- 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
- Wash and remove fuzz from the quinces. Peel, core, and slice them, reserving the cores and peels.
- Place the cores and peels into the center a large square of cheesecloth, then tightly tie the corners together to create a secure bundle. Put the slices in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add water to cover the slices, and then add the bundle of scraps. (With the bundle added, my batch barely fit into a 4-quart Dutch oven; I’d recommend using an 8-quart pot for a recipe this size.)
- Bring the pot to a boil over high heat, then bring the heat down to low and cook gently, uncovered, until the quince slices are very tender.
- When the slices are falling-apart tender, remove and discard the bundle of scraps. Puree the quince and cooking water in the pot using an immersion blender until very smooth, with no lumps remaining. (If need be, you can do this in a few batches using a regular blender, then pour the puree back into the pot.)
- Add the sugar and the rosemary to the pot and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture turns a deep rosy pink and thickens to coat the back of a spoon. While you’re waiting, prepare a large water bath canner and enough half-pint or quarter-pint jars, bands, and lids for 6 pints of quince butter. For me, it took around 3 hours to get to the right stage; I removed the pot from the heat when the mixture was starting to firm up (not quite wrinkling when poked) when I did the plate test.
- Ladle the quince butter into the hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Allow the jars to cool undisturbed for 24 hours before checking seals, removing bands, labeling, and storing.