Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Quince Jam/Ayva Reçeli

beautiful quinces
the end result: teatime!
I’m writing this with the fragrant smell of the cooking quinces or ayva (pron: eye-va) wafting from the kitchen. Every time I get up to check what’s happening,  I see the colour, a deepening rosy pink becoming warmer and richer as the minutes tick tock by.
 I used to make a lot of jams and marmelade, especially bitter, in times gone by but nowadays the jams that we can find on the supermarket shelves  here have greatly multiplied and they are good. But as with all these things, there really is no comparison with homemade.  When my friend  came to stay for the bayram last week bearing  six big ayva from her tree,  I could see that a jam-making session was in order.  That’s the trouble with fresh: you can’t just let it stare you in the face!The fruit itself is very popular in Turkey unlike in the UK or the States : in fact, I’ve just learnt from Wikipedia that Turkey ranks first in the world for quince production and produces a quarter of the total amount. How about that then!  Quinces can’t be eaten raw like most fruit, because they are too sour and astringent, and the flesh is hard even though it is a relative of the apple and pear.

you can see the resemblance

Traditionally it is cooked with sugar and made into a dessert here-ayva tatlısı- and served with that delicious buffalo cream/kaymak. Jam as in this recipe is also a popular option. Persian cuisine, on the other hand, has a tradition of meat and sour fruits cooked together and has many recipes for meat and quince stews. Other countries like Morocco and Romania will commonly  cook it with meat too but not Turkey.
As if I needed further prompting to make this jam, there was a lovely recipe for it with a great picture on the back of the pumpkin and sage from BBC Good Food magazine that I made a few days ago, so I thought I’d give it a go!
Ingredients for Quince Jam/Ayva Reçeli
Makes 2 medium jars worth
1kg/2lb 4oz (about 4 fruit) quince, chopped into chunks, peel, core, pips, the lot
1kg/2lb 4oz granulated sugar
A cinnamon stick/a few cloves/a star anise or a squeeze of lemon may be added to vary the flavour slightly
Tip fruit and sugar into a pan. Add water to cover. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 ½ -1 ¾ hrs, mashing the fruit after 45 mins. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Towards the end, stir frequently to stop it burning on the bottom of the pan. Push through a sieve into a bowl then pour into sterilised jars.

from this ....
to this.....
......to this!
§  It’s important to keep the pips, peel, and core in with the fruit as specified in this recipe as quinces  are naturally full of pectin which is necessary for the jam to set.  I do think it would be better if all those bits were in a white muslin bag so that they could be removed more easily at the end, but where does one get those bags??
§  Turkish ayva are big: I used 3 not 4 to make one kilo.
§  I’ve been comparing other quince jam recipes on the net and there is a huge variation but I came to the conclusion that this recipe is pretty straightforward and produces good results. Many of the other recipes say peel the fruit and throw away the pips and peel: Well, this is not a good idea as then you have to add commercial pectin and there is absolutely no need for that. Also some recipes  say grate the ayva- why would you kill yourself doing that?  Others say cook it for 20 mins but then you look at the pictures and that beautiful jewel-like pink colour is missing, and I am sure the delicate flavour is too. Still others use a food processor! Really not necessary! The fruit softens up with the gentle, slow cooking and the pink colour gradually develops at the same time.
§  I did find it a bit awkward peeling the ayva: the pumpkin was marginally easier, believe it or not. So don’t go overboard and buy a whole ton of them!
§  You need a strong arm for the final sieving but it does the trick.


§  I had boiled my jars for 25 mins and left them in the hot water while waiting for the jam to cook. Now they are upside-down while the jam  cools. Any air pockets should disappear and the jam will keep well for 6 months. After that, the colour may change apparently. Best to eat it before that happens!
§  I have to confess that I didn’t heed the timer as I was engrossed in the blog, and let the quince boil a bit too long. It is still absolutely delicious but the consistency is more quince jelly than jam! So watch the timing especially at the end.
§  I am not the best person to ask about sweetness as I prefer savoury to sweet most of the time. Let’s say if you have a sweet tooth, you are going to love this recipe! Personally,next time, I will add a little lemon juice and use less sugar.
quince jelly!