This may well and truly date me, but Guns N' Roses were a big thing at the start of my formative years, and for the last 2 days week I have had the misfortune of finding this lyric firmly lodged in my head:
'...take me down to the Paradise City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty, ooooh, won't you please take me hoooomeeeee...'
[And, just as a side-note, Good God, look at that hair! With all that hairspray, no wonder we have a hole in the ozone.]
Not really the appropriate leitmotif for such a glimmering jewel of a preserve, based on quince, apple and cranberry, but undeniably stuck, nonetheless.
It all started because I've been having a little crush on quince lately and have lots of them. I threw in some lemon, because I think lemon is a highly under-rated flavor, hence the (almost) part of the (almost) Paradise Jelly.
If the G 'N R isn't your thing, you could slide into another mid '80's classic with Almost Paradise, the love theme from Footloose.
It kills me a little, deep down inside, that I have to specify the original, because now there's a remake, and if I'm old enough to have the cultural touchstones of my formative years remade, then I am, indeed, old.
The foundational constituents of Paradise Jelly remain the same from recipe to recipe, while the relative proportions can vary wildly. There's a marmalade riff in the Blue Chair Jam cookbook. One of 579 recipes from Beryl Wood's Let's Preserve It is a straight-up, no fuss, classic version of Paradise Jelly.
The exception that proves the rule is an oddball with pineapple.
Best we forget I even mentioned it, alright?
If you're anxious about jelly-making, the uber volume of pectin oozing out of these fruits makes this a stonking great way to start jellying, because the stuff practically sets right in front of your eyes. In fact, if you stare at it a little too sternly, it really will set right in front of your eyes. So go easy with it.
This jelly has a tart green apple and spicy cranberry pucker, honey and floral quince, with just a touch of zesty lemon. It will make a spectacular glaze on a fresh fruit tart, or a particularly classy jelly thumbprint cookie. The tart yet rich honey flavor would work very well as a glaze for pork, perhaps mixed with some mustard. Or, stir a little into herbal tea for a flavorsome sweetener. And that's in addition to all the traditional jelly applications.
Plus, it's beautiful. Just look at that gorgeous ruby red glimmer emanating from within each jar.
Good looking and tasty. Phwoar!
Makes about 13 cups of jelly.
2 large quince, or a total of 650 grams (about 1 pound 7 ounces)
3 large tart green apples, or a total of 620 grams (about 1 pound 6 ounces)
1 bag cranberries, 450 grams (1 pound)
half a lemon, sliced into wedges
10 cups white sugar, or 2 kilos (about 4 pounds 8 ounces)
juice of 1 lemon, about 1/2 cup
2 ounces quince rum
You will also need sterilized canning jars to hold a total of 13 cups, a jelly bag or fine meshed strainer, a large heat-proof bowl and a large pot.
Quarter and peel the apples, removing seeds and stem. Peel the quince and cut into eighths, removing seeds and stem. Pick over the cranberries to remove any bruised fruit. Place the fruit in a large pot with the lemon wedges and cover with enough cold water that the fruit can move about quite freely.
Save the peel to make quince syrup or leftovers jelly.
Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer on moderate heat for an hour. Stir every 20 minutes. Keep the water level topped up if it begins to evaporate too much. The cranberries will emit small snaps as they burst their skin, and after an hour is finished the quince will be pink and tender and the apples will be disintegrating. The liquid will be a deep ruby color and slightly syrupy.
Arrange your straining set-up over a large heat-proof bowl. If MacGyver made jam his strainer would look a lot like this. I get bonus points for creative use of chopsticks and masking tape, I think.
Ladle the apple-quince-cranberry juice and fruit pulp into the strainer and let it drip for several hours or overnight. If you've jerry-rigged something like me, then it is pretty much immobile. If your set-up is a bit more professional, you can put it in the refrigerator. Or not.
When the fruit is done dripping, reserve the pulp for another use (such as chutney or fruit leather), or discard. Strain the juice through a fine-meshed strainer to remove any last cloudy particles. Measure the juice, and you should have about 10 cups. You will use 1 cup of sugar for every cup of juice. If you have significantly more or less juice, you need to adjust the sugar accordingly.
Put the quince-apple-cranberry juice, lemon juice, quince rum, and sugar in a large pot and bring to the boil. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Continue to boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Some cooks suggest you skim off the foam, but I find it dissolves back in with stirring, so I don't bother.
When the jelly becomes darker ruby and looks viscous, with smaller bubbles, begin to test for doneness using your favorite method (spoon in freezer, plate, thermometer, etc.). I boil until the jelly reaches 220 degrees F.
You must be fast when jarring this up as it starts to set immediately, so have everything ready to go as soon as it reaches temperature. Fill your sterilized jars, then process according to USDA guidelines.
Keeps, when stored in a cool, dark place, for up to 2 years.