Autumn Jelly from Heaven

It was Sheila of the unpickled pickles who first mentioned Paradise Jelly to me. What’s that? I wanted to know. It’s a jelly made from quinces, apples, and cranberries, Sheila explained, and it’s been in The Joy of Cooking through all the book’s editions. I was ashamed for never having noticed the JoC  recipe, and intrigued by its name. Quinces and apples surely did grow together in those walled Persian gardens from whose ancient name we derive the word paradise, but did those Persians grow cranberries or any sort of Vaccinium—bilberries, whortleberries, lingonberries, huckleberries, blueberries? These are northern plants, I thought. They had no place in Paradise.

Who came up with such a name? I tracked it to one Mrs. Sievers, whose recipe for Paradise Jelly appeared in the cookbook of the Ladies’ Aid Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lombard, Illinois, in 1917. (Whether she produced the first Paradise Jelly I don’t know; if you come upon an earlier recipe, please let me know.) I tried to imagine myself as Mrs. Sievers or her predecessor. Probably the woman’s mind wasn’t in ancient Persia. Did she feel she’d died and gone to heaven when she tasted her jelly?

Maybe she felt that only in heaven could a jelly recipe produce such infallibly beautiful results. Quinces, apples, and cranberries are all rich in pectin, so when you combine them you know your jelly has to set. When you’re rendering quince juice for jelly you normally cook the quinces for a long time, to bring out their redness. With cranberries, though, you can cheat; the berries provide a strong pink color even if you cook all the fruit just until it’s soft. And what a heavenly mix of sweet, tart, spicy flavors you get from these three fruits.

Mrs. Sievers used twenty quinces, ten apples, and a quart of cranberries. Some later recipes, such as the one in JoC, call for more apples than quinces. I decided to try equal weights of each, but feel free to vary the proportion as you like.

Mrs. Sievers’s instructions are simple: “Boil the quinces, apples and cranberries and strain several times. Then measure a cup of sugar for each cup of juice and boil.” Following is my more detailed version of the recipe.

Paradise Jelly

2 1/2 pounds quinces (about 6), sliced thin without coring or peeling (see Note)
2 1/2 pounds apples (about 8), sliced thin without coring or peeling
½ pound (about 1 pint) cranberries
6 cups water
About 4 cups sugar

Put the quince and apple slices into a big kettle, and add the cranberries and the water. Cover the kettle, bring the contents to a boil, and then uncover the kettle and reduce the heat to a gentle boil. Stirring occasionally and crushing the cranberries with a potato masher halfway through, cook the fruits until they are tender, about 15 minutes.

Empty the kettle of fruit into a strainer or colander set over a bowl. When the juice has dripped through, strain it through a jelly bag set over a bowl. Be patient; don’t squeeze the bag.

Measure the juice; you should have about 4 cups. Put the juice into a preserving pan with a cup of sugar for each cup of juice. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring gently, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Raise the heat to medium-high, and boil the mixture until it “sheets” from a spoon (221 degrees F).

Remove the pan from the heat. Skim off the foam, and pour the mixture into sterilized half-pint mason jars. (As you can see, I used standard jelly jars, but you might choose short, wide jars instead if you’d like to turn the jelly out onto a plate for the Thanksgiving table or another occasion.) Add lids and rings, and process the jars in a boiling-water for 5 minutes.

Makes about 5 half-pints

Note: The easiest way to slice the quinces is to cut them in half lengthwise, lay each half on its cut face, and then cut the half vertically into thin slices. 

About these ads

About Linda Ziedrich

I grow, cook, preserve, and write about food in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
This entry was posted in Fruits, Sweet preserves and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Autumn Jelly from Heaven

  1. chickinboots says:

    Where did you find your quince? We have one local grower at our farmers’ market who carries them and she’s sold out for the season. None of the other farmers have heard of them. Any ideas?

    • I have two Pineapple quince trees that I planted 17 to 18 years ago.
      The quince was once a very common garden tree, so you might check with owners of old houses (especially farmhouses) in your area. Also, organizations that connect farmers to local consumers are rising up around the country. If you can find a website for such an organization in your area, you may be able to locate somebody with a quince tree, or a whole quince orchard, in no time at all.

  2. Sheila says:

    Hi Linda! It’s Sheila, thanks for posting the recipe. I’ll have to try it your way – I usually make the quince juice separately, then do the apples and cranberries together and just mix the 2 resulting juices in equal proportions. I also use only 3/4C of sugar to each cup of juice, but sometimes have problems with set, so maybe increasing the sugar will help.

    I don’t know how my great-grandma made this, but after I gave a jar to my (then) 98-yr old great uncle last year he told me that there used to be a quince tree on the property (probably closer to the house where my cousin now lives than the one we built on the “back 40″), and that this was his favorite! We still have the apple trees, but the quince must have been cut down (and I don’t know where they would have gotten cranberries from, there are wild blueberries in the woods but no cranberries). Since we’re in CT, not IL, I don’t think great-grandma saw the Ladies’ Aid cookbook, but the recipe must have made its way east sometime in the 20’s, unless it originated in New England (with the cranberries) and worked its way west?

    @chickinboots – I did exactly what Linda suggests – noticed a quince tree by an old barn as I was driving past and stopped to ask the owner if we could pick. Just be sure to pick unblemished fruit – my DH wasn’t so discriminating, and anything that had the slightest soft brown spot turned out to be wormy.

    • Paradise Jelly appeared in the 1920 edition of The Settlement Cookbook and in the 1921 Atlanta Woman’s Cookbook, so either the recipe originated before 1917 or else it spread like wildfire. I’m hoping that someone will find an earlier version of the recipe.

  3. Cynthia says:

    I find it so hard to cut quinces….after last year, I swore I’d never do it again. I’ll have to try your technique.

  4. Speaking of cutting quinces–be sure to use a stainless-steel knife. The acid in the fruit eats up carbon steel, and then the steel stains the fruit flesh.

  5. chickinboots says:

    Thanks for the suggestions! I did find an old apple orchard a few streets from my house with a couple of quince trees. The owner was more than happy to let me pick some. Paradise Jelly here I come! :)

  6. Sheila says:

    Yeah! Let us know how it goes. Oh, and that knife – make sure it’s a big one, these things are *hard*! (Linda didn’t mention it, but I cut off the stem and blossom ends and discard them – oh, and make sure you rub all the fuzz off when you wash them.)

  7. val says:

    I’m trying to decide between getting a jelly bag (jellies are so pretty, but I’m more of a jam gal) or making your quince-cranberry recipe instead of a paradise version. Either way, I am so glad it’s quince season!

    • Linda says:

      You might get sufficiently clear juice, Val, by using a fine strainer. If you buy a muslin jelly bag, you might end up disappointed; mine is made of cloth too tightly woven to allow pectin-rich juice to drip through. My nylon jelly bag works fine, though.

  8. thewritinghouse says:

    I am so trying this in the autumn, it looks amazing, just the colour is enough to get it on my to make list!

  9. Maggie says:

    Quince jelly is so heavenly!! I had access to free quince (my father-in-law’s tree) and made jelly every year but sadly it was blown over in a storm last year. I have some saplings planted and it’s going to be hard to wait. I wish more people grew them. They are so good baked too!

    • The popularity of quinces seems to be slowly growing. They’re wonderful baked whole, mixed with apples in pies and sauce, sauteed in butter, simmered in wine, made into wine and liqueur, etc., etc. I really don’t understand why quinces went out of style in this country. Maggie, I hope your little trees grow up fast and healthy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s