Liz on quinces, preserving and the joys of cellaring

The quinces on our tree this year are enormous – Doug keeps calling them tree pumpkins.  The season is earlier this year.  Perhaps we’ve been fortunate with an even summer temperature over the fruit setting period.  Not the horrendous 45 degree day of last season which seemed to halt the growing phase for at least a month.

Tomato picking is also in full swing (celebratory drinks can be had during picking – no ladders required).  I’ve been making jar after jar of fresh tomato pasta sauce.  We’ve included it in summer veggie lasagna, fresh tomato gnocchi with torn basil, spag bol, spread it on pizza bases and even drunk it like soup.

The zucchini plants are still at it.  I’m now resorting to recepies that include zucchini chocolate cake among others.

Our neighbour, Ryan, dropped over some beautiful pears the other day.   I made baked pears.  Who would think that shoving castor sugar over peeled pear halves, a few knobs of butter and a vanilla bean pod could work so much magic in the oven – just by leaving it  there for two hours?  I immediately went out and bought a pear tree. (I know it’s the wrong time of year and I should have waited for bare rooted stock – but, hey, it was my Birthday and I did plant a ‘William’ pear in honour of my son).

Now that we’ve picked everything I’m turning my thoughts to how to store it or make it into something pronto.

The quinces are easy.  Those people who ‘get it’ love to be given quinces so that gets rid of a few buckets.   I usually use the pineapple or large quinces from the tree in our terrace in making quince paste.  I wait for the first cold rainy day and light the wood stove in the kitchen, select suitable detective novel and sit and stir and stir and stir all day!  It’s a great excuse to spend a day reading while making the paste we can enjoy all year.  Bring on a runny brie…

The quinces from the tree in the orchard go into jelly as they seem to have higher pectin levels than the others.  (Cue past disasters in jelly making that resulted in plenty of ‘topping’ for William to put on his ice-cream! Definitively proven to be low in pectin when my mother also tried to make jelly and ….wait for it…..it didn’t set either!  Unheard of!  Mum failing to make perfect anything in the kitchen!)

My maternal grandmother left us a recipe for making jelly that doesn’t require straining through muslin.  It’s so much easier and means no upturned chair on the kitchen table all night or questions from husbands as to what on earth you’re doing with that old pair of pantyhose tied up in the kitchen!

My nana would put 6 large quinces, 6 pints of water and 4 pounds of sugar into a large boiler and boil for about 2-3 hours.  At the end near setting point, she would make a gel test on a cold saucer, skim off any froth and then gently lift out the whole fruit (that had only been rubbed free of fur and washed, not cut).  Nana Falkenberg would simply pour the jelly into sterilized jars and seal.

The candied quinces left over can then be sliced and are divine with clotted cream or made into a roly poly cake.  If only I could make great scones, I’d be able to boast the perfect morning tea…quince jelly on top with enough butter to clog arteries.

Another autumn harvest makes me rethink our house renovations a little.  All that produce means having to store some of it.  I’d love a cellar close to the kitchen.  There’s one below our shop, but being in a whole ‘Act now on the new idea and grow out of it next week’ phase at the moment, I’d forget things if I put them down the shop cellar!

(The other day Doug and I went down the cellar to organise some display spot lights and actually found some bottles of red we’d stashed a couple of years ago.  Imagine our delight at the windfall – and despair that we’d been fruitlessly scratching about in the pantry the week before for a good bottle!)

I think the key to a cellar is to have it nice and close to where the cook does the work. I could imagine that I could just ‘pop’ down the cellar and grab some spuds we’d clamped from summer.  Or lift out a crate of granny smiths to make pie.  Or grab a quick bottle of tomato sauce so the boys could smear it all over whatever wonderful meal I’ve created so they’ll never actually taste it….

I reckon the art of keeping produce could become, well – an art form!  Just a few hours without a refrigerator in humid weather would soon sort the clampers from the cowards.  Don’t get me wrong.  The fridge/freezer is an essential tool in keeping the tonic and ice cubes ready for emergency G & T’s – not to mention the vodka for any needed hair of the dog next morning.  But do we really need to keep store bought jars of pickled onions in the fridge?  I mean – doesn’t pickling mean they can be – kept?!  My mother in law even keeps the vegemite in there.  (Aghh!  Imagine if the smell somehow leaked into the tonic water!)

A cellar.  That’s what we need.  Somewhere to stash all the preserves and produce to keep it longer…constant temperature and very importantly to those bottled wine connoisseurs, no vibration to unsettle the little darlings as they rest and gather body – or whatever!  (Our family is very big on young wines that require immediate drinking).

So, all you green thumbs out there who don’t know what to do with the tree full of  apples or the lemon tree you should be bottling into preserved lemons(lucky you – my lemon’s going through the ‘terrible twos’ at the moment) – it’s easy.   Just get out a spade and start digging……under your house!

Seeking your recipes for vegetable and fruit excesses here…. post a recipe or comment….provide a preaparation or cooking tip….or a way to preserve or prolong the spoils of harvest….

3 thoughts on “Liz on quinces, preserving and the joys of cellaring

  1. Mary says:

    My mouth’s watering Liz, the cooking aromas are coming off the computer screen. You have also triggered fond memories of Geoff’s Nana Barry making quince jelly. She used your grandmother’s method – couldn’t understand why anyone would bother with all that chopping – but used to stab the quinces with a steel knitting needle first.
    As for the cellar – I want one!

  2. Liz says:

    Come round and grab a bucket of quinces, Mary.

    ‘ve picked them now to defeat the cockatoos…the brown dog isn’t up to his usual ‘cocky patrol’ standards at the moment he’s busy NOT licking his hideous leg wound due to the fabulous Elizabethan collar the vet gave him….

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