If you’re very lucky, you have quince trees growing in your garden. If you’re not that lucky but still occasionally caressed and fondled by lady luck, there is a boy who volunteers to send you all the quinces from his quince tree. (Now, isn’t that a charming gesture of woo!) If you’re somewhat lucky, you can either find quinces in one of your local markets or else you can surreptitiously forage some from here and yonder. And if none of these apply, well, let’s face it, you’re entirely out of luck! At least when it comes to quinces. And that is a fate I would not wish for you, because I love quinces and I’m equally fond of you.
A decade ago, pomegranates were obscure objects of desire but by now everyone is appraised of their charm and eager to heap praise on the ruby-red-jeweled fruit. Quince — an ugly fruit with a heavenly scent and a multitude of hidden charm — is for certain destined for an equal if less glittery future of popular recognition. If you have not yet jumped on the quince bandwagon, do it! Do it now! Do it before it is commonplace and mundane.
Now, as befits a Persian food blog bearing the monicker of Fig & Quince, we have covered recipes for: stuffed quince (dolme ‘ye beh); quince kookoo (kookoo ‘ye beh); quince tas kabob (a finger licking slow-cooked fusion of many delicious things that has to be tried and marvelled at) and we were also graced by Maria’s Dulce de Mebrillo Sweet Quince guest post. By and by, delicious plans are afoot to bring you the recipes for the Persian quince stew (khoresht ‘e beh) and also for quince sharbat (sharbat ‘e beh) as well. But right now, that is at this very moment in time, when our beautiful silvery moon in the sky is in its waxing gibbous phase, it’s time to share with you the recipe for quince jam (moraba ‘ye beh.) A toothsome affair that goes mighty nicely with tea and buttered bread.
A little aside: I regret a few things about my trip to Iran. Regrets not too few to mention. Like: why did I not go up hiking on the mountains in Tehran more often ? Why did I not motivate and go visit my friend at her mother’s house that one time? (I really should have.) Why didn’t I make the time to go visit Joobin at Khoosh Nevissan cafe? Why didn’t I spend at least one whole day sitting in a cross town bus traversing this side to that side of Tehran? Why didn’t I take a Persian shirini making class? And why oh why oh why oh why did I not indulge in the traditional Persian breakfast?
For while I did allow myself to take great and even at times greedy pleasure in the plentiful goodness of the delicious Persian food (homemade and otherwise) widely available to me when in Iran, I stuck to my old boring albeit healthy breakfast throughout the trip. Yes! I do so confess! So even as my sundry Persian guest hosts broke their fast with excruciatingly soft and recklessly sweet smelling Persian bread freshly delivered or bought from the local noonvayee — lovely bread like nooneh sangak or barbari or lavash — that they wantonly buttered and then jam’d with spoonfuls of moraba (jam) and took big bites in between sips of hot tea, I in turn had my plain bowl of yogurt with sliced banana and some chopped walnuts and their quizzical looks of concern and pity! Yes, I was virtuous, but at what price! What folly was this! Tssk tssk!
It’s not possible to turn back the clock, alas, nor as of yet is it possible to replicate the amazing freshly baked bread of Iran outside of the borders of “the most charming country in the world,” but at least the moraba (jam) is one that can be remade to redress and remedy regretful neglects, and it’s specially nice when it is made with quince and I urge you to consider making it as well.
The quince moraba comes out a little soft, a little chewy, and a lot tasty.
- 2 1/2 lbs quinces (approximately 4 quinces)
- 3 to 4 cups sugar (depending on how sweet you prefer your preserves)
- 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds (or else substitute 1 cinnamon sticl)
- filtered water
- Sterilized jars
- Wash, dry, peel and quarter quinces. Remove seeds and cores. Slice each quarter into orange-slice-sized wedges. Squeeze a lemon over the wedges – the lemon juice prevents quince from discoloration.
- Place quince wedges in a pot with enough filtered water to cover 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low, close lid, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add sugar, cardamom seeds (or cinnamon stick), stir with a wooden spoon to mix, close lid and simmer for 2-3 hours — until quince wedges turn a beautiful reddish color and the syrup thickens.
- Add freshly squeezed lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, boil for just another couple of minutes. (Here’s a trick to tell if you need to continue to boil preserve or if it’s ready: Add a droplet of syrup to cold water. if the droplet sinks intact without disintegrating, the preserve is done!)
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Fill sterilized jars with quince jam. Store in a cool, dark place until use.
Notes & trouble-shooting: Do not remove the lid while the jam is being made. If the jam is not thickened sufficiently, remedy the issue boiling the mixture on high heat (without the lid) for a few minutes until the syrup sufficiently thickens.
You can enjoy quince jam preserves as a topping with yogurt or ice cream. Traditionally, however, quince jam is enjoyed as a spread with buttered bread and tea for ‘sobhaneh’ (breakfast) or ‘asraneh’ (afternoon delight.)
Make it, enjoy it, and noosheh jaan!