i have in my possession 2 bags of quince apples (10 lbs. worth) picked from my parents' backyard. ever since we gave the maple tree an extreme pruning makeover, the newfound sun exposure has jumpstarted the quince bush into producing a lot of apples. my father took last year's harvest and tried to make some jelly. i gave him the recipe but he didn't follow it. the result product was more juice than jelly, more sour than sweet, and devoid of quince fragrance. he even gave me a bottle, which sat unused in my fridge.
with this year's quince crop i vowed to follow the recipe and hopefully get some good jelly out of it. i bookmarked a bunch of different instructions online but ended up going with ones from simple recipes. i picked the less-than-perfect apples first, figuring since this was my first attempt, i'd save the good batch for the 2nd time around once i've learned from my mistakes. the first step was cutting the quinces into quarters. i realized right away this would be impossible with my set of inferior knives. a quince apple is as hard as a rock, and if i'm to split nearly 3 dozen quinces, it'd take all day. i needed a nice and heavy cleaver to do the job right. it wasn't that late yet so i figured i could ride the motorcycle into chinatown and pick up a cheap chinese-style meat cleaver. i decided to call my mother at the cafe first to check if she had any spare knives. sure enough she did, so i saved myself a trip into boston and went to the cafe instead.
i ended up taking an OXO brand santoku knife and a small slightly-rusted meat cleaver. i also grabbed a trio of canning jars, but they're the wrong size (more for pickles, not for jellies). back at home, i tried the cleaver first. although it could split a hard quince without any problems, i had zero control and ended up with flying quince halves with every whack. i tried the santoku. it was heavy too which gave me more downward force, but easier to handle compared to the cleaver. it went through the hardest quince fruit without any problems, yet precise enough for me to surgically slice off any rotten parts. one thing they don't tell you about quinces is how seedy they are inside. not the soft kind either, but hard seeds that scatter everywhere. every once in a while i had to clear the cutting board of seeds and pick them up from the floor.
my mother called at one point to let me know she was sending my father to help me chop up the quinces, fearful that i might accidently sever another finger or two. i asked my father to bring the 2 used bikes when he arrived, which i stowed in the basement. by that point i pretty much had all the quinces quartered, awaiting further processing.
the next step was the boiling, which i did in a tall stainless steel pot. i dumped in all the quince pieces and filled it to about an inch above the line. the quince became more translucent and softer the longer it boiled. after about 30-45 minutes, we decided to mash up the quince pieces. first i used a blender, which kept on getting clogged. we dumped everything back into the pot and used a handheld mixer instead. the final result was something that looked like apple sauce.
we poured the mash into a large pyrex bowl and cleaned the tall pot. i then set up a straining station. i just happened to have a bowl-shaped sieve that could fit on top of the pot. to that we added a layer of cheesecloth (folded over itself 4 times; purchased this morning from star market for $2.69). into the sieve-cheesecloth we poured in about a 1/3 of the mash. right away we could hear the dripping sound of the filtered quince juice collecting inside the pot. it felt like we were making maple syrup. even though the mash was opaque, the liquid that we extracted was clear. since it'd take at least a few hours to collect all the juice (drop by drop), we decided to set up a second straining station. i didn't have another sieve, but i did have a large pasta strainer and some leftover cheesecloth. into the strainer-cheesecloth combo we poured in the remaining 2/3 of the mash. all that was left to do was wait.
my father went home after that point. occasionally i'd stir the mash, trying to get the liquid to settle to the bottom. there are still some hard quince pieces, probably because we didn't boil them long enough. i'll remember that when i make the 2nd batch.
for dinner i had some leftovers my mother gave me yesterday. when pau came home he made some more french fries. i was in standby mode for just such an occasion, but he reassured me it wouldn't get smoky. a little bit later i went back into the kitchen and turned on the window fan anyway, figuring it was better safe than sorry. it's impossible to fry anything without generating some smoke, even if i can't smell it from the living room. pau ended up making a super spanish omelette, using 6 eggs and a filling of french fries and asparagus amongst other ingredients. he only managed to eat half of it though.
tomorrow: collecting the filtered quince juice, boiling it with equal parts sugar, then pouring the liquid into jars to make quince jelly!