As of today, just one day until Christmas, I have made 2 pounds of granola, canned 18 jars of apple butter, and individually wrapped 64 salted caramels for the holidays. And it’s only just begun.
There are pies to be made. A playlist is in the works. Did I mention that I have yet to wrap a single gift?
The one thing I did manage to take care of in advance was preserving. I’ve decided that preserves are my gift of choice this year. I am 100% ready to distribute some jam. If you’re looking for last minute gift ideas, I’ve got just the thing for you.
Quince jam. Quince has become one of those things I’ve become obsessed with in recent years. It started with the quince paste, otherwise known as membrillo, that I used to buy from the cheese section at Bi-Rite market. It was such a great addition to any cheese plate; I was inspired me to make my own.
I’ll never forget the first time I bought quince. It was just days before Christmas and I had planned to make membrillo. I woke up Christmas Eve morning, ready to make quince paste only to discover that my bag of quince was nowhere to be found. Because someone, who shall remain unnamed, had mistaken my bruised quince for rotting fruit and threw them away. A tantrum ensued, followed by a begrudged trek out to Rainbow Grocery to buy more quince (for some reason, Berkeley Bowl had stopped carrying quince that Christmas). It was a rough scene that Christmas Eve morning. But the membrillo was a hit.
This year, instead of making membrillo, I thought I’d make quince jam since it’s easier to divvy up. As it cooks, the pale flesh of the quince becomes a gorgeous rosy color and fills your kitchen with the most incredible aroma – sweet, amazingly floral, a hint of citrus. As with most jams, this particular jam is really nice spread on toast, but it’s even better with a thin slice of manchego. And if you really feel like living on the edge this holiday season, you can slather it on one side of a grilled cheese sandwich. Merriest of holidays to you and yours!
vanilla quince jam
adapted from Simply Recipes
makes about 5 half pints
6 cups packed, grated quince, (discard cores, leave peel on), about 2 lbs of quince (about 5 quince)
4-1/4 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 vanilla bean, split
4 cups sugar
Prepare the quince by washing and cutting in half. Working around the core, grate the quince flesh (including the peel) with a cheese grater, until you have about 6 cups of grated quince.
Put water in a large, wide, thick-bottomed saucepan (6-8 quarts) and bring to a boil. Add the grated quince, lemon juice and lemon. Reduce heat and simmer until the quince is soft, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and carefully ladle the quince into a food mill to puree. Return the processed quince to the saucepan.
Add the sugar and vanilla bean and bring to a boil again. Stir to dissolve all of the sugar. Lower the heat to medium high. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until quince jam turns pink and thickens to desired consistency, about 30-50 minutes.
Fill your your biggest, deepest pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. The water level will need to cover the jars.
Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars* and seal. Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids. Place a dry lid on each jar and close tightly.
To sterilize the jars, rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.
Using tongs place each of the jars in the boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars and leave undisturbed for at least 8 hours.