A small batch of sugar-sweetened roasted quince butter is a tasty preserve for the fall canning kitchen.
Back in September when I was in Portland, my mom and I drove out to Sauvie Island for a picnic and a walk. The day was crisp and sunny, and we both felt buoyant and energized by the gloriousness of the day. After we’d eaten, we went for a wander around the antique apple orchard at the old Bybee-Howell House.
A maintenance worker was there raking up the fallen apples. We asked if we could gather a few of the windfalls that were still in good shape (as we’ve been doing for years) and were told that they were headed for the compost and to help ourselves. I filled a bag with bruised but flavorful fruit and was entirely satisfied with my haul until I spotted a single quince laying on the ground amidst the apples.
The game had gotten real. I love quince. And this year, they’ve been particularly hard to come by on the East Coast, in large part thanks to the wonky weather we had earlier in the season. So finding untended and unappreciated source for quince was a thrill. My scavenging went from casual stroll to focused searching and my determination paid off.
I finally found the single quince tree. There was a bounty of quince on the ground and I picked up every single one worth salvaging. While I was still in Portland, I made a batch of apple and roasted quince butter, using all the apples and the about half the quince (all that wouldn’t travel well). The rest of the quince? I bagged it up and brought it back to Philly with me for a batch of roasted quince butter.
Because quince is incredibly dense and unyielding when raw, I bake it until soft before I try do anything with it. This step doesn’t fully cook the fruit, it just softens it enough that you can cut into it without fear that the knife will bounce and slice your finger instead. It’s not the right approach if you want to make jelly with it, but it’s wonderful if you are planning to make jam, butter, paste or chutney.
Once it cools down from the oven, I cut away any remnants of the blossom, cut the quince into eighths, dump it into a saucepan, and simmer it with water until tender. Finally, I fit a food mill with its finest screen and push the cooked quince through. When that’s done, you’re left with a dense, fragrant, tart puree that is ready to be cooked, sweetened, and spiced into the preserve of your liking.
For this batch, I opted to sweetened with sugar and spice with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. It is fragrant, smooth, and spreadable. I really like to spread a thin layer on a slice of craggy toasted sourdough and then top it with whispers of a well-aged farmhouse cheddar. Paired with a mug of tea, it’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up (and makes me feel like perhaps I’m traveling in time to a less complicated era).
How have you been preserving quince this season?
- 2 pounds ripe quince (it should smell fragrant and floral)
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set the quince into a baking dish and pour a bit of water into the bottom. Bake the quince for 25-30 minutes, until they can be pierced with a dinner fork.
- Remove the quince from the oven and let them cool. Once you're able to handle them without burning yourself, cut away any remnant of the blossom and then cut the quince into eighths.
- Place the cubed fruit into a sturdy saucepan with a tight fitting lid and add the 3 cups of water. Set the covered pot on the stove over a medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the fruit until breaks down into a chunky sauce.
- Fit a food mill with its finest screen and push the quince sauce through. Work the food mill until all you have left are seeds, skins, and core material in the top.
- Rinse out the saucepan to remove any scummy residue and return the puree to the pot. Add the sugar and spices and stir to combine over medium heat. The butter will need constant stirring at this point, or it will splash all over your stovetop.
- Typically, I'm quite pleased with the consistency at this point, but if you find that it is too runny for your tastes, continue to cook, stirring all the while, until it reaches your desired thickness.
- For a perfectly smooth butter, use an immersion blender to even out the texture just before canning.
- Funnel the butter into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.
- When the time is up, remove the jars and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. When the jars have cooled enough that you can comfortably handle them, check the seals. Sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.