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Monday, November 15, 2010

Paradise Jelly

When I was a teenager, our family lived on property that had once been a bustling gold-rush era town. One of the legacies of the local history is fruit. My folks still get pears and plums from the old trees. Until very recently, we got persimmons and figs. Over 20 years ago, there were quince bushes. I think most quince we see at the farmer's market comes from large trees and the bushes are usually ornamental. They do have gorgeous melon-pink flowers. We discovered, like everyone else, that quinces cannot be eaten raw. They are just too astringent. My mom made them into a lovely jam. There is a special, fragrant, something extra about quinces. I've been wanting to work with them ever since I started canning last winter.

I first read about Paradise Jelly at Put Up or Shut Up. (Take a look at that vivid pink-red color she got!) After doing some research, I found that it is a traditional jelly made with quince, apple and cranberries. I saw different proportions of fruit in different recipes, but almost all of them required 3/4 cup of sugar per one cup of strained juice. I decided to use just about all the fruit I'd purchased to make the juice and go from there.

I purchased 10 lbs. of quince, 6 lbs. of apples (granny smith) and two bags of fresh cranberries. I prepared the quinces separately from the apples and cranberries, mostly because I didn't have a pot big enough for them all. The quinces must cook significantly longer than the other fruits as well. To prepare the quinces, scoop out the blossom end with a corer or melon baller, then roughly chop. Do not remove seeds or core. Place in a large stock pot and fill with water to top the fruit. I used 16 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for a couple of hours - until the fruit is soft and has taken on a pink hue. Leave the lid ajar so that some of the liquid can evaporate while simmering. Drain through cheese cloth.
Next, roughly cut the apples. Do not remove the seeds or cores. Place in a large stock pot. Add the cranberries and add water. I used 12 cups of water. I did have some unexpected results when cooking the apples an cranberries. Somehow the apples expanded while cooking and floated dramatically to the top, forcing the lid off and the cranberries out like so many ruby colored marbles. There are no pictures of this as I was running around trying to rescue everything. Once the simmering settled down, the apples and cranberries cooked down nicely in about 30 minutes. Strain the apples and cranberries through cheesecloth.
The juice was still quite cloudy after having been strained through cheese cloth, so I decided to strain the combined juices through scalded muslin. This took some patience, but produced a crystal clear jelly. With the fruit and water that I had, I ended up with 18 cups of juice, plus a little extra. I processed the jelly in 6 cup increments. This is my first jelly without using commercial pectin. I used a combination of digital thermometer and the frozen saucer test to insure a set. You will have to guage your thermometer through experience. Technically 222 degrees is the jelling point, but per my thermometer, 223 is about right. This jelly bears careful watching as quinces and apples are both high in pectin and the set point will come and go quickly. Also, watch your pot so it doesn't foam over.

I'm very pleased with the result. Won't this make a beautiful holiday gift?
Paradise Jelly
6 cups quince, apple, cranberry juice (see instructions above)
4 1/2 cups sugar

Prepare jars, lids and boiling water bath. Place the juice and sugar in a large pan and bring to a boil. Set up thermometer to monitor temperature. Place a few saucers in your freezer for testing the set. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes, until thermometer reaches 222 or 223. Test the jelly by scooping out a small amount and dropping it on the frozen saucer. Once cool, the jelly should wrinkle slightly when pushed with your finger.
Remove from heat and scim off any foam. Carefully ladle jelly into prepared jars, wipe rims and top with lid and ring. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes for half pints. Carefully remove and allow to stand over night before labeling. Makes 5 half pints.

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