Here is a Roger update: we decided to start him on crate training. So far, so good, but we are increasing the time very incrementally. I can’t wait for the day when we can leave him alone for a few hours without worrying. Fingers crossed!
The story of this quince jam begins with my frustration about not being able to find it in Minneapolis grocery stores. I called a local co-op and they told me they had it but it was from Mexico and $2.99 per pound. Another place (a fancier but conventional grocery store) said they were $2.99 each. A different co-op said they had a source and I could special order, but that they weren’t keeping quince in stock because they couldn’t sell them. Whole Foods didn’t have it (and if they had, it probably would have been imported too, or at least not locally grown). You know what irked me the most? The one with the quince imported from Mexico. That’s where I ended up getting them, but why on earth would an allegedly locally-focused co-op import quince when there are quince trees all over the Midwest? It makes no sense. I wanted to go and find a quince tree that I could pick but I’m a busy lady, so I bought the imported fruit.
The story actually begins much earlier, with my alleged dislike of quince jam that seems to have lasted for a great deal of my life. I would watch my family spoon it onto warm pieces of barbari bread smeared with butter. And I would declare that I didn’t like it. Part of this has to do with my preference for savory breakfasts, but it also had to do with the presence of Persian sour cherry jam (morabaye albaloo) at the table. When that’s around, don’t even think about trying to get me interested in quince. I can’t tell you how deeply I regret not eating my paternal grandmother’s homemade, rosy quince jam when I was in Iran in 2011. I made up for it on my most recent visit, though. Here is she is back in 2011, at the age of 92, putting out a plate of cooked rice for the sparrows that visit her yard every day.
Quince are widely loved in Iran, and throughout the Middle East and Asia, but they live a life of relative obscurity in North America. When I was growing up in the suburbs of Toronto in the 90s, we had a neighbor with a quince tree that was always heavy with unpicked fruit. I died of embarrassment when my parents first helped themselves to some quince and then later, wanting more, knocked on the door and asked about them. It turns out the owners of the tree had no idea the fruit was edible. They were shocked someone wanted it. I have since heard that many people have had either side of this experience. It’s a shame too because, as I said above, quince trees really do grow all over this continent, not just in the Midwest.
I finally got around to making this jam on the weekend, when Matt’s mom was here visiting us. It was the first of several weekend cooking projects, which I will share here over the next few posts. Since I’m fairly new to canning, I underestimated how many half-pint jars I would need to sterilize and ended up with some extra jam that needed to be used up. I decided to make simple butter cookies with a drop of jam. This means you get two recipes on this post today. Have you ever had quince jam? If not, I really recommend that you try it. The fruit turns the loveliest shade of pink when it is cooked. I love eating it on toasted bread with butter, or with Bulgarian feta and walnuts.
Makes roughly 7 to 9 half-pint (8 oz.) jars of jam
3 pounds quince, cored and diced (but not peeled)
4 1/3 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cups sugar
4 cloves cardamom
If you have never canned before, check out these instructions. First, sterilize your jars, lids, and bands. I do this by washing them in hot, soapy water. Once you are done the preparation of the jam and are going to simmer it, do the next step: place the jars in a large canning pot, fill with water, and bring to just under a boil. Once they reach this stage, reduce the heat to keep them at just under a boil. This is so the jars stay hot when they are filled with hot jam. The lids and bands can be placed in a small saucepan and covered with water. Bring these to just under a boil and turn them off (do the lids and bands later when you are almost ready to start filling the jars).
Put the water in a large, heavy wide-bottomed pot, such as enameled cast iron, or if you have it, a copper jam pot! Bring the water to a boil, then add the quince and lemon juice. Reduce the heat and simmer until the quince is soft, at least 10 minutes but possibly up to 25 or 30. You need to decide what texture you like. I wanted a fairly chunky jam, so I used a potato masher to squash the fruit a bit at the end of this stage. Add the sugar and bring everything to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, lower the heat to medium. Cook uncovered until the jam turns a nice shade of pink, about 50 to 75 minutes. Make sure you are frequently stirring so that you don’t burn the jam. In the last few minutes of cooking, add the cardamom cloves and stir to mix them into the jam. Once the jam is ready, use a funnel to ladle the jam into your hot, sterilized jars that you have just removed from the canning pot. Leave about 1/4 inch room at the top of the jar. Use a clean cloth or paper towel dipped into hot water to wipe the rims of the jars. Seal with the hot lids and bands, place the jars carefully back into the canning pot. Bring to a boil. Once you reach a boil, set a time for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the heat off and leave the jars in the water for another 5 minutes. Then remove the jars carefully and leave them on a clean dish towel overnight. In the morning, check to see if the lids sealed by pressed down on the lid. If you hear a pop or feel any movement, they haven’t sealed properly. Put them in the fridge right away and eat within a couple of weeks. If there is no movement and the lid is totally flat and can’t be pressed down, your jam has sealed and can be stored or given away for gifts.
3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup or more quince jam
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl (or stand mixer), cream together the butter, white sugar and egg yolks. Mix in the flour a little at a time until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Place the balls 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Use your thumb to make a well in the center of each cookie. Fill the well with 1/2 teaspoon of the jam. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.