I am a coffee drinker. Growing up in a cafe-loving city like Portland, OR, it was hard not to pick up the habit during my early high school years. However, every 18 months or so, I cut way back on coffee and switch to black tea. I don’t do it intentionally, there just comes a morning when I wake up craving the nuance of tea.
I am currently smack in the midst of a tea phase. However, this one isn’t as inexplicable as the previous ones have been. I trace it directly to a recent preserving project that Alexis from teaspoons & petals and I recently tried.
Wanting to see how fall fruit would work with a tea infusion, we imagined a few small jars filled with sliced poached quince suspended in a spiced chai syrup (our first collaboration was a peach oolong jelly) and set a date to make it happen.
The morning of our canning appointment, Alexis picked up an assam-based chai spiked with cinnamon and cloves from Philadelphia’s House of Tea while I ran to Reading Terminal Market to pick up 4 fragrant quince. After washing them well to remove any fuzz from their skin, we chopped the quince into slices, taking care to remove any hard inner bits and put them in water to poach until tender (this took approximately 30 minutes).
While they cooked, we made the syrup. I combined 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar with 2 cups of water (this makes a fairly heavy syrup) in a medium saucepan and simmered until the sugar was entirely dissolved. Alexis measured out two generous tablespoons of the tea and tucked it into a paper infuser.
We let the tea steep in the syrup for 5 minutes, tasting after the time was up to ensure that the flavor intensity was where we wanted it (it was). When the quince slices were tender but not falling apart, we lifted them out of the water with a spider and dropped them into the syrup.
Then it was just standard canning procedure. Funnel slices into prepared jars. Top with syrup. Remove air bubbles and adjust syrup levels (1/2 inch headspace, please). Wipe rims and apply lids and rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
The result of this experiment are three half pints jars of the most wonderfully spiced slices of quince ever. The syrup is also a revelation, we had a bit leftover and I spent a couple of days making myself spiced chai sodas with sparkling water. I’ve served one jar with slices of this gingerbread (good on its own, it’s a marvel when drizzled with this syrup and topped with a couple slices of quince).
The only thing I’d do differently in the future is that I’d wait to make the syrup until the quince were finished poaching and use some of that liquid. That way, I’d get even more of the quince flavor into the final product.
If quince are already gone from your area, you might try this recipe with slices of pear instead. I imagine they’d be wonderful with a spiced syrup like this one. Skip the poached step and instead just cook the pears in the finished syrup for a moment or two. Imagine that served with some creamy cheese. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it!