Quince Jam with Port

I thought nature was playing tricks on me when I first saw the unexpectedly colossal fruit dangling from our spindly-looking "apple" tree. It didn't look like an apple, the fruit that it should yield. At the beginning, I thought we had an apple tree because that's what we chose in a long line-up of fruit trees in the shop and planted in our garden. Instead, we mistakenly bought the only tree that was erroneously tagged. After a bit of research, what we have in our garden is actually a quince tree. It's a fruit that I had no knowledge about and it started my new adventure about jam-making.

From what I learned about quince, or mela cotogna in Italian, it is a pome fruit and a relative of apples and pears. It's a backyard fruit, something you won't be able to buy commercially. It has a similarity with the appearance of pears but much larger and a bright golden yellow color. When immature, the color is green with light gray fine hair covering it which it eventually loses when it's ready to be harvested in early autumn. It's not a fruit that you can eat straight from the tree nor anytime at all. It only becomes edible when cooked, eliminating the seeds because they can be toxic when eaten in large quantities. The pulp is hard and only softens when cooked while it emits a very nice delicate perfume.
Quince is not an easy fruit to handle. It is hard and unfriendly to knives and hands. After almost losing my fingers thrice, I finally realized that I cannot peel it like I normally do with other fruits like apples and pears. The best way to save yourself from encountering accidents is to put it on a chopping board and peel it from there, or better yet, if you have a husband who can peel and chop the fruit for you. Some boil the whole fruit with the skin on for about half an hour and peel them after or some just mash them a bit and make the jams with the skin on. The pulp turns brownish when sliced and comes in contact with oxygen, just like apples but this color goes away while you cook it.
In making jams, the suggested amount of sugar should be at least 3/4 of the total fruit or better yet, follow the ratio of 1:1, 1 kilo of sugar to 1 kilo of fruit. The bacteria cannot live in a very sweet environment so the high level of sugar ensures a more sterilized jam. Sometimes, some molds appear at the top part. That is the liquid part that separated from the pulp that lost a substantial amount of sugar.  So, if you are planning to eat them a long time after you made them, say a year, put up the amount of sugar. I, on the other, cannot eat them when they are overly-sweet so this measurement works perfectly well for my palate and my family's. The shelf-life of my jam recipe is just for a few months because the sugar I put is very little.
There are two kinds of quince jam I make. One with port and one without. The jam with port goes perfectly well with aged cheese. To try it, I partnered it with Dobbiaco Vecchio, a local aged cheese from the Dolomites.  The blending was scrumptious.  Even both of my kids joined in the plunge and polished off an impressive amount fit for an adult.  Our house favorite for the aged cheese is a kind of jam that we can only get in the Dolomites, pears cooked in red wine.   This is what inspired me to concoct this quince jam with port. 

The plain quince jam, on the other hand, goes well with the toast. You can adjust the amount of lemon if you want to.  Since quince has such a mild taste, I like to curb the sweetness a bit with the tartness of the lemon. 

Quince Jam with Port

Yields jam that fit in 430 ml. jars (more or less)
  • 1 kilo quince, pulp only
  • 250 grams white sugar (put up the amount if you want a longer shelf-life)
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 

Quince Jam without Port:

  • 1 kilo quince, pulp only
  • 250 grams white sugar (put up the amount if you want a longer shelf-life)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  1. Clean, peel, core & dice the quince. When you have accumulated 1 kilo of pulp, put them in a thick-bottomed cooking pot. 
  2. Add the water & port (or water only), sugar & lemon.  
  3. On medium fire, let it boil. When it boils, turn down the fire to simmer. Stir frequently to avoid burning the bottom. Mash the fruit with the back of the ladle. Cook for 30 - 45 minutes.  
  4. While waiting for the jam to cook, prepare a big cooking pot with a lot of water to sterilize the jars & lids. When the water boils, put all the clean jars & lids in the water and boil for 15 minutes. Take them out with tongs to avoid burning yourself.  Let them dry on a clean dishtowel.  Make sure they are completely dry when you are going to fill them up with the cooked jam. Another way of sterilizing jars is putting them in the oven or in the dishwasher with high temperature.
  5. When the jam is cooked, spoon them immediately in the jars & close them tightly.  Turn them upside down until they reach room temperature.  
  6. Store them with the lid up.