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Quince Cheese (Membrillo)

1 Oct

It is October, the quince trees are laden and it is time to make Membrillo, the famous Spanish sweet meat. A thick paste of sieved quince and sugar boiled down, poured into moulds and set in blocks. A favourite treat for winter pantry, delicious served with cheese such as Manchego and cured hams.

Makes about 1.5Kg (4lb)
*1Kg (2lb) ripe quinces
*juice of half a lemon
*a little water
*600-800g sugar (approx)

Wash and chop the quinces.  Place in a large pan with the lemon juice and just enough water to cover the fruit, simmer uncovered until the fruit is very soft. Push the quince through a metal sieve or vegetable mouli to get a smooth pulp. Weigh the pulp and put it back into a clean pan with the sugar. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cook gently until the paste is thick. You will need to keep a constant eye on it and stir regularly to prevent catching on the bottom. The paste is ready to pour into moulds when it is thick. My test for being ready, for all cheeses, is when a spoon is drawn through the mixture and it takes a few seconds for the paste to fall back into the cleared line of the spoon – a parting of the seas moment you could say. Pour into lightly oiled moulds that are still warm from being sterilized, cover the top lightly with a piece of grease proof paper, and leave overnight to set. Once set wrap or cover tightly with a lid or cling film/tin foil. You are supposed to store membrillo for 3 months before using but I have never found this necessary. Turn the cheese out and serve in slices with sweet or savoury dishes. Membrillo will keep 2 years or more in the fridge in a covered container.

Note most membrillo recipes call for an equal weight of sugar to fruit pulp but I find that too sweet and prefer to add less sugar. At a ratio of 60% sugar non of the preserving qualities are lost.
Variation for a more pronounced citrus flavour simmer the quince with lemon or orange peel before sieving.
TIP Quince are very dense so I use a food processor to whizz them into small pieces because it saves on cooking time.

Originally posted onmas du diable  31/10/2007

Provençal Fig Jam

27 Aug

It is fig season here in France, everywhere we go there are figs on market stalls and hanging in trees. We can normally eat our way through the small number of figs we grow on our own land but this year we got a lovely batch of figs from Rachel’s parents garden in Provence, hence the name for this jam. These figs are delicious, large green and purple skins with pale pink insides, very juicy and quite sweet so I have added a little citrus to give it a zing and help with setting.

 Prep 5 min Cook 25-35 min*500g ripe figs*200g preserving sugar*rind of half a lemon or lime*juice of one whole lemon or limeWash and chop the figs and put into a roomy pan with the citrus and cook over a low heat until soft about 10 minutes then add the sugar and cook on a high heat stirring occasionally to prevent sticking until setting point is reached this took about 15 minutes but it can vary according to the fruit and sugar. Meanwhile wash and sterilise the jam jars as described in How to Make Jam. Pour into warm jars and seal immediately.

Originally posted onmas du diable  27/8/2007 See how to make jam for tips on testing for set.

Plum Butter

3 Aug

This is a smooth buttery jam softer than a set cheese and without the addition of butter to make a curd. It takes a long time to cook but the result is worth it. I am not sure which variety of plum we have here, they are small, almost round, dark purple with deep red flesh they have a strong sharp taste with a hint of almonds.
Makes about 16 X 250g jars
*3.5kg Black plums
*650ml of water
The method of making a butter differs from making jam only in that the fruit is passed through and sieve before the sugar is added and then is cooked for quite a long time. Wash plums and put into a large preserving pan with the water. Bring to the boil and boil for 30minutes or until the fruit is very pulpy. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Sieve the pulp to remove the skins and stones. Weigh the pulp and return it to the rinsed pan with 500g – 750g of sugar to each litre of pulp or half its weight in sugar. Cook on a high heat stirring occasionally until setting point is reached, approximately 1 hour. Ladle into warm sterilized jars (at this point you can pour a small amount of brandy over just to cover the surface but it is not necessary) and seal.
Originally published on 3/8/2006

Mirabelle Jam

25 Jul

An absolutely exquisite jam. Mirabelles are small, yellow, highly aromatic plums for which the south of France is gastronomically famous. True mirabelle jam is almost apricot in flavour but, to my taste, it is even better. Mirabelles tend to appear in the markets in August, but we are lucky to have several Mirabelle trees on our land and our seasonal harvest can be June, July or August, depending on which of our trees is fruiting.

Makes about 2.5Kg 10x 250g jars
*1.5Kg (2lb) Mirabelle Plums
*1Kg (2lb) sugar
*A little water

Wash, halve and stone the plums. Crack the kernels and add these to the fruit (optional). Pour in enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and simmer until the fruit has softened 30mins-1hr. Add the sugar and bring rapidly the boil, boil vigorously until setting point is reached. Carefully skim off any scum and pour into warm sterlised jars using a funnel. Seal immediately. See how to make jam for tips on testing for set.
Originally posted on mas du diable  25/7/2007

Apricot Jam (Low Sugar)

1 Jul

I think apricots make the best low sugar jams. Most jam recipes call for an equal weight of fruit to sugar which I find far too sweet. I normally make jam at about 60% sugar but this recipe is for a jam that is about 30% and it is wonderful. It has a fast and furious cooking process and very little sugar and is ideal for making in small batches even one jar at a time when you have the fruit.

  • Apricots
  • Preserving sugar

Remove the stones, roughly chop the apricots and weigh before tipping into a roomy heavy bottomed pan set over a high heat. Weigh out the preserving sugar equal to 30% of the weight of the fruit, so 30g of sugar for every 100g of prepared fruit. Once the apricots start bubbling tip in sugar and cook quickly until the consistency thickens and setting point is reached. Pour into hot sterlised jars and seal. See how to make jam for tips on testing for set.

Red Currant Jelly

30 Jun

A real classic and deliciously tart jelly, wonderful on bread for breakfast or more traditionally as an accompaniment to roast lamb. I’ve waited years to harvest enough red currants to make red currant jelly, I love it, but it takes quite a lot of red currants to make a small amount. I started with cuttings from a red currant bush (Jonkheer van Tets) in 2006 and I’ve been waiting until the cuttings grew big enough to produce enough fruit. I now have 6 healthy bushes and they have all produced a decent harvest this year.

  • red currants
  • sugar
  • water

Wash the fruit and put it into a large pan with enough water to half cover the fruit and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, mashing every now and then for 30 minutes or until the fruit becomes pulp. Pour the pulp into a jelly bag and hang the bag over a bowl to catch the juice. Leave it hanging until the juice stops dripping, a minimum of 4 hours or overnight to extract all the juice. Don’t squeeze the bag or it can make the jelly cloudy. Measure the strained juice and return it to a clean jam pan with 200g of sugar for every 300ml of juice. Stir well to dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached. Skim off any scum that forms and let the jelly settle for a minute or two before pouring into warm sterilised jars, seal immediately and label.
Cook’s Tip
To save time and effort the fruit can be boiled with all the stalks attached before it is strained but I do think you get a better tasting jelly if the fruit is cleaned from the stalks first. Use the times of a fork to run through each bunch and the fruit will fall off the stalks into the pan.
Recipe Source Home Preserving, 101 ways of preserving fruit, vegetables & herbs 1972. Most recipes including this one suggest more sugar but I prefer a tarter jelly, particularly if it is to be served with savory dishes so I use a lower ratio of sugar.
See how to make jam for tips on testing for set and techniques.

Strawberry Jam

31 May

This is the quickest and easiest jam you can make. The fast cooking process captures the fresh summer taste of strawberries.

  • Strawberries 
  • vanilla sugar 
  • lemon 

Hull and slice the strawberries roughly, weigh them and tip into a large pan. Weigh out half the weight of the strawberries in sugar and add that to the pan along with the juice of half a lemon per 200g of strawberries. Bring to the boil and let it cook rapidly, stirring occasionally, until the jam becomes glossy and the colour deepens slightly. It should take about 10 minutes for small batches and a little longer for larger batches. Pour into warm sterilised jam jars and seal immediately. This jam is ready to eat immediately and will keep for 6 months to one year. If you want a longer lasting jam use an equal weight of sugar to fruit.
Cooks Tip Sugar can be infused with the wonderful aroma of vanilla by keeping vanilla pods in the sugar jar.

How to Make Sweet Preserves

1 Jan

Most fruit can be preserved using sugar and it is pretty easy to turn a glut of seasonal fruit into all kinds of  jams, jellies, curds, butters, pastes and marmalades. It is a great way to conserve fruits when abundant for use later in the year when there is non. Here are all the basics you need to know plus some of my favourite recipes.

What fruit to use

My favourites are: apricot jammirabelle jam, quince jelly, red currant jellyplum butterfig jamquince cheese (membrillo), raspberry jam, blackcurrant jelly and lemon curd.
There is no point making sweet preserves unless you or your loved ones like eating it. For instance I won’t be making grape or white mulberry jelly again as they were too insipid, or pear jam as it had no flavour, or cherry jam as I didn’t much like the taste, or elderberry jam which really was foul, or rowan which was weird but of course it is all a matter of taste so experiment with what you like.

1. Wash and chop (unless it is already small) the fruit removing peel, cores, stones or pips where necessary.
2. Put fruit in a large pan with a little water, bring to the boil, then simmer until soft.
3. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
4. Increase the heat and boil until setting point is reached.
5. Pot up into sterilised jars & seal 


Large heavy bottom pan or jam pan.
Long handled wooden spoon, the longer the handle the less likely you are to burn yourself when stirring hot jam.
Jam jars and covers. 
Nice to have

Jam Funnel – A jam funnel is very handy, its like an ordinary funnel but with a wider neck that fits inside a jam jar making it easier to fill.
Jelly Bag- a specially made bag that can be hung up and left to drip separating the juice from the pulp only required for jelly making and even then a piece of muslin can be used.
Cook’s or sugar thermometer 

You can use glass jars of any size, make sure the ones you use don’t have any cracks, chips or flaws.  For sweet preserves I generally use fairly small 250g jars, as we don’t get through jam very quickly this size is ideal for us and they are also an ideal size for presents. If you eat larger amounts of jam use larger 450g/1lb jars or whatever you have to hand. It is possible to buy jam jars in France at agricultural shops and even in supermarkets which is what we do because we don’t have many jars to hand not buying the stuff that normally comes in them, however if you do just wash and save the jars with their lids to use later for your own preserves. Ideally you will have saved the lids with the jars and can use those other wise it is possible to buy wax paper and plastic jam pot covers (personally i don’t find these as successful but worth having a go if you can find them). They come with instructions so just follow 

The most important thing is to make sure that all the equipment you are using is scrupulously clean and that the jars and lids the preserves will be kept in are sterilised. 
  Prepare the jars by washing them well in warm soapy water and then rinsing thoroughly. 
Oven Method

This is my preferred method once the jars are washed put them on an oven tray and place in the oven (160C, 335F, Gas Mark 3) for 10mins. Leave to cool slightly but fill whilst still warm to prevent the jars from cracking when the hot filling is added. This requires timing, put the jars in the oven about 15mins before you think the jam will be ready to pot up. 
Hot Water Method

Place the jars carefully in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Once boiling continue boiling rapidly for 10 minutes, remove the jars carefully, shake off any excess water and set out to dry on a heat proof tray, the heat in the glass will help evaporate the water if you need to speed drying up just pop them in a warm oven until all the moisture has gone. 
 Bring a pan of water to the boil, drop the screw top lids into the water and  boil for 5 minutes, strain, shake off excess water and leave to dry just prior to use. A simpler method is to pour boiling water over the lids and leave to steep for 10 minutes, drain and dry before use.
Rubber seals and corks.
  If you are using kilner jars or jars with cork tops, they need to be sterilised slightly differently. Bring a pan of water to the boil drop the seals or corks into the pan and boil for 1 minute and remove from the heat. After another 5 minutes drain and leave to dry ready for use.

There are 3 methods to test if setting point has been reached. I would generally use at least 2 to be sure. 
1.        Wrinkle test
 – This is the easiest and most reliable test all it requires is a cold saucer (put a saucer in the freezer for 15-30mins). When you think the jam may be ready, remove the pan from the heat. Drop a teaspoonful of jam onto a cold saucer. Allow it to cool for a few minutes then gently push your finger through the jam. If it wrinkles a satisfactory set has been achieved. If it doesn’t, return the saucepan to the heat and continue to boil for a few more minutes then test again. Repeat as necessary. 
2.        Flake test – 
Dip a spoon into the jam, remove it and after a second or two tilt it so that the jam drips. If the drips run together and fall from the spoon in flat sheets or flakes then setting point has been reached. I personally find it hard to decide if the jam drips in flakes or just drips so only use this as a second test. 
3.        Temperature Test
  Jam reaches setting or jelling point at between 104 and 107 degrees Celsius  making sure the jam reaches this temperature requires a cook’s or jam thermometer. Place the thermometer in a jug of hot tap water to warm up the thermometer so that the sudden temperature change dropping it into the jam does not crack it. Place the thermometer into the pan without resting on the bottom, they often have some kind of hook to hang onto the side of the pan so that the thermometer does not reach the bottom of the pan. This is the most accurate method but only really useful if you are making large quantities and you have to buy a thermometer. 

Fill the jars while they are still warm from sterilisation with hot jam (jam should be hot but not still boiling, leave it to cool slightly for a minute or two before filling). With or without a funnel carefully spoon or pour the hot preserve into the jars, filling to just below the top, wipe any stickiness from the rims of the jar with a clean damp cloth and seal.  To seal jam i just screw on the sterilised lid and my jams have lasted well for 3 years so far. However, if you are in any doubt about the keeping ability of the jam (say you have added even less sugar or only barely cooked the fruit in order to retain more of its fresh taste), there are a couple of things you can do to keep air away from jam to stop it spoiling. Before putting the lid on cover the surface of the jam with a disc of grease proof or waxed paper cut out to fit the jar pressing it down so that it has contact with the warm jam or add a thin layer of brandy to form a barrier between jam and air, then screw on the lid.


Label with the contents and date. It is very easy to make your own labels so why not make your jam labels look nice while your at it. We made some particularly nice ones by cutting disks out of brown wrapping paper and hand writing the label then gluing it on with pritt stick. You can also make labels on the computer, which is what i do now, using a basic wordprocessing package. 

Most jams are ready to eat immediately but can be stored for 2-3 years. Store in a cool dark place and, once opened, keep in the fridge.

This article was originally written on in August 2006, I’ve re-written it and re-posted this new updated version.  

Apple & Rosemary Cheese

21 Nov

This is an excellent sweet and savory preserve and makes a wonderful accompaniment to roast poultry or meats. It is also delicious with cheeses and can even be added to sauces to give an extra dimension. In November, when the second wave of late apples are dropping, I use the windfalls to make this preserve.

  • Apples 
  • 500g sugar to every kilo of pulp 
  • juice of 2 lemons per kilo of pulp 
  • 1 sprig of rosemary 
  • 2 tbsp rosemary leaves per kilo of pulp 

Pick over the fruit and remove any bruised or bad bits, wash and roughly chop, cores pips and all. Put into a preserving pan with enough water to cover the fruit well, simmer until very soft for about one hour. Pass the pulp through a metal sieve or vegetable mooli and measure the pulp. Return the pulp to a clean pan with the sugar, a sprig of rosemary and lemon juice, stir until the sugar is dissolved and bring to the boil. Lower heat and simmer gently. After 30 minutes of cooking remove the rosemary sprig. Continue cooking and stirring until the correct consistency is reached. For a solid preserve cook in the same way as Membrillo, until a spoon can be drawn across the bottom of the pan and leaves a clean line.  Mince the remaining rosemary leaves with a sharp knife and stir into the paste. Cook for a further 5 mins. Brush the insides of sterilised shallow glass jars or ceramic ramekins with oil and ladle in the fruit paste to ¼ cm below the rim. Leave loosely covered to cool and set. Then seal and store in a dry, cool dark place. Should keep for 6 months or more. To serve turn out the fruit cheese and serve sliced.

Recipe Source I first made this cheese by mistake when I had tons of windfall apples and cooked the whole lot up to make apple jelly. It seemed a shame to waste the left-over pulp so I made a few experiments, with some herbs and batches of pulp, and ended up with this delicious cheese, something like membrillo but less sweet and bouncing off the tongue with aromatic Rosemary. It is divine with roast lamb and any other roast meets, cheese. etc
Cooks TIP If you want a spoonable preserve cook it for less time, until the paste reaches setting point, and bottle as you would jam See how to make jam for tips on testing for set and bottling. 
Originally posted on mas du diable  22/11/2007