W. M. on Preserving Quinces

"To Keep Quinces Raw All the Year
Take some of the worst Quinces and cut them into small pieces, and Coares and Parings, boyle them in water, and a Gallon of water, some three spoonfulls of Salt, as much Honey ; boyle these together till they are very strong, and when it is cold, put it into half a pint of Vinegar in a wooden Vessel or Earthen Pot ; and take then as many of your best Quinces as will go into your Liquor, then stop them up very close that no Aire get into them , and they will keep all the yeare."

W. M. The Compleat Cook (1662)

Another quince recipe today, and one in rather sharp contrast to Charlotte Mason’s Quince Pudding, being a quince pickle / preserve rather than a sweet treat.

W. M. says to start by chopping manky quinces in a gallon – which is 4.5 litres, so you’ll probably need a dozen or so chopped quinces – of salted and honey-sweetened water, then “boyle these together till they are very strong”. I think ‘strong’ in this context could mean a strong heat, as in a rolling boil, or it might mean thickened. I suspect the former.

Then you leave the quince mush to go cold before adding half a pint – roughly 250ml – of wine or cider vinegar, pouring the mixture it into a suitable vessel, which I suspect in this case would be a large sterilised jar. Finally, pack in your best quinces, making sure there’s no trapped air in there, and seal the container up for storage. There’s no mention of peeling the quinces, so I’m not sure if they’ll pickle per se, unless you were to prick the skins to allow the vinegar mix in? Or perhaps slice and core them before you pack them in the jar? But I suppose the amount of salt involved might be off-putting. I don’t know for sure, I’d have to try it out to see what happened.

A couple of suggested modernisations: perhaps strain the quince mush so you’re just using the juice, rather than all the bits, and don’t forget to thoroughly wash your best quinces before you pack them in the jar. You should probably also water-bath seal the jar to be extra sure it’s as sterile as possible.

How about you? Does ‘salt and vinegar’ flavoured preserved quince sound like a good idea to you? Are you a bit of a preserving expert, and if so, can you think of any necessary or recommended improvements to the method? Please do feel free to leave a comment below if so, that would be much appreciated!

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