In March it’s hard not to be gluttonous. It’s hard for me to walk away from a quince tree with only a small amount of quinces. Instead I have this hungry energy as though the tree I have found is the only tree in the world and these are the only quinces I will ever find, ever. And so I always harvest more and too much and I have to learn, I really do need to learn, not to be so hungry.
But for now I have not learned. So after making vast quantities of quince paste which I will share with farm stay guests, with friends and family and use for bartering, a full basket of quinces remained. I decided that I would dry them.
I left the skin on and cut them thinly, placed them in a very large bowl and added raw sugar until they were well covered. I added lemon juice because acidity always helps to preserve fruit although quinces are already very acidic.
I left them in the bowl covered for two days. Over this time the sugar wicks most of the water out and you end up with a really delicious quince cordial.
I strained the juice and bottled it in these fantastic beer bottles and placed the bottles of quince cordial in a pot big enough to cover them with water well and boiled them for 20mins. Once cooled they were placed in our larder to be enjoyed with warm liqueurs in winter and cool drinks in summer.
The quince pieces I’d sliced were placed on my dehydrator trays, touching but not overlapping and were dried for between 8-10 hours.
Dehydrating can be tricky for a home preserver not because it is hard, as it is very easy to do, but because you never quite know what you can get away with. How dry should you make the fruit. If you want to keep the fruit for a year as I often do then I tend to dry it very well. If you want to keep it for a few months you can leave a bit of softness to it. It’s trial and error.
The really great thing about home drying is that your fruit is sulphur dioxide free, in fact this is not the only great thing. What I love, what I really love about all this food preserving is the culture of it. The adventures that come with it. The trip in the car (or bike preferably) looking for trees, or the discussions with friends, exchanging favourite spots. Choosing which basket to bring, something wide enough so that the fruit does not sit on top of each other, the excitement of being offered a tree by a friend on Instagram with an invitation to harvest (thank you Part Time In Kingston), the possible recipes and exchange of recipes with friends and friends yet to make. The colours that fill my larder, the sweet fragrance of fruit and the enduring flavours through winter.
I really, really love this food culture and I am so appreciative of my cultural inheritance.