Autumn gift

by | Mar 23, 2012 | Uncategorized | 13 comments

This autumn gift arrived today from the south island. Here it is, freshly unwrapped from its litttle box. 
What is it?
I’ve never seen such a thing before.
Here’s a clue: my fingers were sticky as I unpacked it, and when I licked them – yumm!
Here’s another clue: a slice of this orange delight, just before spreading.
The gift was sent by an appreciative reader in the south island. She is living on the land and loves to share stories of what’s happening on her lifestyle block. And now I will reveal all: this is a round of quince jelly. It’s an annual ritual for her to make it, and she loves watching it ‘turn from translucent pale yellow to this rich autumn amber.’
This gift is a special treat for reasons that my south island friend doesn’t know. When I was first married I decided to make jam, using the abundant quinces that were falling off the tree in the garden. They were ugly fruit, and not particularly edible, but I was told that they made marvellous jam or jelly. Armed with a preserving pan borrowed from my mother, and her instructions about how to know when to stop boiling the mixture, I embarked on the adventure of jam making.
Alas! My neighbour, who knew everything, popped in. She kept discouraging me from stopping and potting the jam, saying it needed more boiling. And so I boiled it on and on. The next morning what did I find?  Pots of toffee that were so hard they couldn’t be approached. I threw the whole lot away and never tried jam-making again.
Now this beautiful circle of quince jelly has arrived through my letterbox.  The wheel has come full circle. I can at last enjoy the autumn blessings of the quince.


  1. Elisabeth

    How wonderful to see the effects of all that boiling, not toffee but quince jelly. It’s wonderful with cheese.

  2. Elisabeth

    How wonderful to see the effects of all that boiling, not toffee but quince jelly. It’s wonderful with cheese.

  3. juliet

    Hi Elisabeth, yes it’s great when someone gets it right. Thanks for the tip; I’ll try it with cheese for my lunch.

  4. Lynley

    I think quince jelly might be a tough call to make as a first attempt at jam/jelly making. We want to do so well as new wives don’t we? :-))

    What a glorious colour your Sth Island friend has achieved. I hope you licked your sticky fingers clean after you opened your package. You won’t want to miss any of it. Enjoy!

    BTW I had trouble posting a comment today on a WordPress blog! The gremlins seem to be around still.

  5. juliet

    Lynley, yes I was going straight for the hard stuff trying to start with quince jelly/jam. I certainly did lick my sticky fingers thoroughly!
    With WordPress I tried deleting my details from the box they show under the comments, and then putting them in again. Sounds silly, but it worked.

  6. Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Juliet – me too .. I’m hopeless at jam – my father and I made some damson cheese once – that worked … but not sure what we did with it.

    I think making some jam now would be so soothing for the soul ..

    Love the thought by your friend to send her quince jam as gifts ..

    It looks delicious and is I imagine excellent with lamb, mint potatoes and fresh veg .. as well as some lovely sharp tasting cheese – both of which you have ample in NZ ..

    It’s glorious here today – cheers Hilary

  7. juliet

    Hi Hilary, I’m definitely going to try it with some cheese. Yes, jam making could be good to try again. I can imagine it being soothing. Glad you are having some good weather. Today was beautiful here too, the best day for some time.

  8. Hotly Spiced

    I love quinces and I love quince jam and quince paste. What a lovely gift and how wonderful to receive that from an appreciative reader. I would have been so excited if that were me! xx

  9. juliet

    Hi Charlie, yes it’s the kind of gift where you would never guess what’s in the box, Who could have thought that such delicious flavour could come out of such an unattractive fruit.

  10. Penny

    What a fabulous autumnal gift and an equally fabulous story of what it ever-more-special to you, Juliet.

    I chuckled a bit, for I had just the opposite problem when I first tried making caramels. I never boiled it enough – until my sister-in-law clued me in on how long to cook it and to use a candy thermometer.

    I’m smiling.

  11. juliet

    Hi Penny, your story shows just how hard it is to get it right. A thermometer sounds like a very good idea – but would have been unthinkable back then. The quince paste was a great gift indeed.

  12. Joan

    Oh what a magic post Juliet. I looked at a big bag of quinces for sale for $5 at Woodlands when Jan and I had lunch there. I shook my head and walked on. Now.. looking at your gift. Oh my goodness. Looks wonderful!

  13. juliet

    Joan, thank you. It was a magical gift. Quinces look so unattractive, but look what can be produced (from the right pair of hands – not mine!)


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