Thanksgiving Quince Chutney
A couple years ago when I started my big annual Thanksgiving dinner preparations, I had neglected to buy canned cranberry sauce. There was everythng else, the big turkey, the mashed potatoes, the pumpking pie, everything except the iconic cranberries which are so hard to find in Italy. So, as a substitute I made three chutneys that would go well with turkey. The Pelion Pear chutney was the best of the three and has become a perennial favorite. Last year I had had the presence of mind on my summer trip to Chicago to buy canned cranberry sauce, so I was all set for Thanksgiving 2006. Sadly, the reality of the thing did not live up to my nostalgic expatriate food memories; it was nowhere near as tasty as the pear chutney. This year I'm branching out with other chutneys that I'm pretty sure I've invented. This one is made from roasted quinces and is a take off on my very auspicious membrillo experiment. This is quince, lemon, lots of sugar and sweet and savory spices. Here's the recipe*:
3 large quinces (about 2 pounds)
1 pound sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 in piece of ginger, finely minced and crushed with the side of the knife
1/4 tsp ground true cinnamon (Mexican)
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
§§§ One point: if you omit everything after the ginger, you can make a glorious quince jam great for spreading on toast and munching along with your steaming cuppa coffee on cold mornings.
The best way to cook quinces is to roast them whole in the oven for about an hour until soft since they are very hard and knobbly, which makes peeling them raw a task I wouldn't wish on anyone.
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Wash quinces and pat them dry. Place on a baking tray and roast for 1 hour or until a bit soft. Remove from oven and let cool until you can handle them with bare hands. Remove their peels. Cut them in quarters and remove the central pith. Put a very large stock pot to the boil with canning jars and tops inside, to sterilize them. Place the quince pieces in a medium pot with high sides and add the lemon juice, sugar and ginger. Cook over medium-high heat stirring constantly until the fruit mixture begins to boil. Music to make cranberry-sauce substitute by: The Cranberries' "Linger". Since most of the cooking has been done in the oven, the mixture should thicken up and the quince pieces should melt into a uniform creamy jam consistency almost immediately. Stir until your canning jar water is boiling. Add the ground spices and incorporate. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Now, you’re ready to jar the chutney. Utensils you will need: 1 long wooden spoon, 1 ladle, 1 plastic funnel cut in half so that the pouring space is narrower than the jar mouths but wide enough for the chutney to go through, 2 oven mitts and ideally 1 friend standing by, surgical technician-like, to make the process go more smoothly waiting for commands like "oven mitt stat!". Using the long, wooden spoon, fish out one of the jars and shake it upside down to remove excess water (the spoon should be inside the upside-down jar). Place the jar right-side-up next to the pot of chutney. Place the funnel over the jar, ladle in jam up to just millimeters from the very top, fish out a lid with the spoon and, using oven mitts, screw the lid on very tightly. Flip the sealed jar upside-down on the counter and proceed with the subsequent jars. Allow to cool completely.
*This is a recipe that will make much more chutney than what you need for Thanksgiving unless you're inviting ALL your Irish-Catholic cousins, maybe your child's's basketball team or the like, so I've included some canning instructions so that you can enjoy the chutney all winter long with any roast meat dish.