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Norton Priory is home to the national Collection of Quince (Cydonia Oblonga). These are dotted around the garden and the site and include 24 different varieties.
The quince is an ancient fruit and is believed to have originated before the apple, with some scholars positing the theory that the quince was the real forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
The trees themselves are gorgeously aromatic, but the fruit is bitter and hard when eaten raw. On cooking however, the flavour becomes sweet and delicious and is a perfect accompaniment to both desserts and meat dishes. It also contains pectin, which makes it ideal for making jams and jellies.
Unfortunately, the quince tree's susceptibility to the threats posed by insects and disease has limited its cultivation in many areas, particularly those with cooler climates. Now quince trees are rare, and their fruit is considered a specialty crop, which is why it’s vital to celebrate this versatile fruit to ensure it doesn’t die out.
The Quince Collection appeared on BBC's Countryfile in October 2015, and included Jane Maggs recreating a recipe for 'a white marmalade of quinces' dated from 1697. Jane Maggs has kindly provided the recipe she used below.
"Quinces are very hard and whilst recipes tell you to peel and/or grate them raw, I find parboiling before peeling much easier. Most recipes also tell you quinces take ages to cook. I do not find this to be the case. Bring clean quinces to the boil and cook until slightly soft but not mushy. If too mushy they fall to bits and are hard to peel. Keep the boiling water. With any luck the skins will slip off like beetroot. If not, peel normally and cut the flesh away from the core. Chop coarsely into sizes you might like to see on your scone or toast."
"Weigh the chopped quince with enough of the boiling water to just cover. Yes, you can use the boiling water too as quinces are so high in flavour and pectin! If you are at all nervous about the set put the quince cores and peels in a bag and cook up with quince flesh. Bring the quinces in their water to the boil. If they are still a bit hard finish cooking them now, otherwise add the sugar. The weight of sugar will be 75% of whatever is the combined weight of quinces and water. Lower the heat and stir to dissolve the sugar, then, when the sugar is dissolved boil hard until a set is reached. Remove the bag, if added, and squeeze. The old recipes do not add lemon juice (quince will set perfectly well without it) but I add it to balance the sweetness as quince has no acidity in its flavour. The colour of the preserve will be pale amber. If you cook a little slower you will get a beautiful 'red marmalade of quinces' as you watch the colour darken to a beautiful deep amber.
If you did not use the peels and cores, quince is so accommodating that you can even make quince jelly with the boiling water! If you boil the peels and cores in a bag with the remaining quince water until everything in the bag is mushy, squeeze the bag, strain the boiling water through a sieve and add sugar and boil as before, add some lemon juice, maybe 2 tbsp to 500ml, and boil to a set, you will get a beautiful amber-coloured quince jelly."
Where can you find us?
Norton Priory Museum & Gardens,
Tudor Road, Manor Park, Runcorn,
Cheshire WA7 1SX
**Please note: If you are navigating with sat-nav, use our ADDRESS not the postcode - it will make finding us easier! Registered Charity Number 504870. Registered as a company in England Number 1232182.
Phone: 01928 569895
FAX: 01928 589266
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