Whilst being a Spring baby, I really love Autumn, not least for the bounty available in the trees and hedgerows. The smells of the first fires mean that it’s not long until quince-time! I loathe synthetic air “fresheners” and start sneezing within a couple of feet of those awful plug in things. Shove a couple of fuzzy, aromatic quince in a bowl to ripen and all is well in the SloeGandT house! Inedible raw, and hard work (you need a jolly sharp knife and to be super-organised as they discolour quickly) the quince takes on a magical transformation cooked with a little sugar. If you are unsure of trying quince for the first time in something as expensive as a bottle of gin, try slicing one into an apple crumble for a pudding pep-up!
Quince liqueur is an especial treat for me. It’s never ended up as anyone’s Christmas present but mine!! I made a little quince vodka and whisky last year, which were OK, but I made them in a rush: never a good idea with quince. I’m not sure whether my “only OK” was the base spirit or my even more slapdash than usual approach. This year, I’ve gone back to my tried and tested recipe: spiced quince gin. The aroma of quince, cloves and cinnamon is enough of a festive kick-start to then turn my eye towards pimping up mincemeat and start a few verses of Rudolph…
There is a lot of potential wastage with quince. They are rock hard and it can be quite difficult to trim down as much of the fruit from the core. If you are not lucky enough to have access to a tree, bought quince can appear expensive if only about half of their weight is used. The “quince tea” recipe uses up the leftovers. Apparently the emollient property of quince pips makes them very good for a sore throat. Although I am more of a fan of evidence-based medicine I’m prepared to let this slide as the end product tastes so lovely!
Spiced Quince Gin
For every 750ml Gin add
500g grated quince
2.5cm knob ginger; sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla pod
Large Kilner-style jar
Defuzz, peel and core quince: drop into acidulated water until ready to grate as the quince browns very quickly. It’s also worth spraying the food processor or grater with a spray of lemon if you are doing a bigger batch.
Add this and all other ingredients in the jar.
Shake daily for a couple of days until the sugar is dissolved.
Store in a cool dark place for a minimum of 3 months.
Strain through a muslin-lined sieve, and bottle
To the leftovers of 4 large quince add
Honey to taste for a warm sweet tea
Whisky to taste for an extra kick!
Boil up the skin, core and other leftovers of the quince. (This year, I also added the ginger root skin leftover from the gin making)
Simmer until the liquid is reduced by approximately half & the liquid is slightly syrupy
Cool, strain and bottle
Keeps in the fridge for about six months
Serve warm with honey to taste.
Add whisky for an alternative to a traditional hot toddy
I recommend the whisky addition, however I missed “Stoptober” this year, so am having a booze-free “No-vember” instead. Roll on December!!