Cotognata and a lifetime’s ambition
Quince jelly is a luxury in England, sold in Waitrose and chosen by foodies to go with ‘just the right cheese’. In Italy it is a children’s snack.
I adore the taste. I recognise the word cotogna now, as I had a long discussion about what a mela cotogna was with the lady of the manor in the south of Italy.
I first heard about quinces as an eight year old child when my parents bought me The Treasury of Natural History by Bertha Morris Parker. I became obsessed with the fruit section. After that, it became a lifetime ambition to try eating a cherimoya and to taste quince. I also read all about quinces, reading that they are pomes and not berries and that they are mostly used for making jellies and preserves. Last year, when my fellow trustee arrived at a charity board meeting with a boot full of quinces, you can imagine that I was first in the queue in the car park.
I cleaned them up and froze them. Yes, I know; how big is my freezer? They looked unearthly and inedible as they defrosted:
One thing which helps in preparing them is that it’s not necessary to peel or core them if you’re making quince jelly. Just making a jelly seems such a waster when you’re left with all the beautiful pulp after straining it. I wanted to make a solid quince sweet with the pulp as well, so I cored them. I was determined to squeeze every last ounce of flavour out of them and not waste a thing. Here they are, bubbling away:
And then after straining once through a jelly bag:
I only added sugar and water. There was no lemon or flavourings involved. There wasn’t much left, but I got it up to jam temperature:
And then bottled it. No, I mean put it into bottles, or rather jars.
There were a few pesky bubbles. I’m sure there’s a technique to get rid of them, probably to do with timing. I also popped a star anise in each jar, which would look better if there weren’t bubbles and it wasn’t such a deep, rich red. It’s fascinating that green and yellow fruit turn such a fabulous red when cooked.
But there’s more. Here’s what was left in the jelly bag after the clear(ish) liquid had drained:
And that pulp is also delicious.
Here it is after pouring into a tray, and setting in the fridge and cutting it into chunks. Sweet, slippery, aromatic and packed full of flavour.
I sent a photograph of them to the Puffin Whisperer and she confirmed it looked just right. Then she reminisced about school days in Italy with cotognata for pudding. I couldn’t wait for her to taste it and did the only thing reasonable in the circumstances. I carried a plastic container with some in for 1,000 miles so she could.
It has the taste of apple, pear, rose and honey.
I really needed a nice cheese when I had a moment to grab a photograph of it on a plate. Something like Comté, one of my favourites. I had to make do with slices from a block of extra-mature cheddar. Oh well. I blame the pandemic.
It was gorgeous. Lifetime ambition achieved.
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