Tuesday, 8 November 2011
My great grandma's quince jam recipe
My great grandma Alexandra was born in the 19th C. She was a unique woman. I wrote about her on my arty blog (see here). In the days before the revoltuion of 1917 Alexandra (or baba Shura, as I called her when I was little) worked as a cook in a baron's household. I suppose she was an equivalent of Mrs Patmore from Downton Abbey, only much younger.
Here she is with her friends, young and yet unmarried (she is sitting in the photo). A friend with the long cascading plaits became a mistress of a nobleman.
Later, when she was already in her 40s, she used to work as a chef in a roadside restaurant where well known Soviet producers and actresses loved to stop for lunch on the way to the south. Her sweet buns were so famous that people would queue from the early hours to buy them from the restaurant shop.
Sadly, when I was a child, I wasn't much interested in her stories, and preferred to lie in the hammock with a book whenever we visited my gran and great grandma's house. I utterly resented the fact that my mother took us to the Godforsaken village in the middle of nowhere every summer and tried to demonstrate my independence. I regret it now. I so wish I could go back in time and talk to my great grandma, ask her about her life and her recipes.
One of the recipes that my Mum learnt from her is a recipe for a quince jam, which I call a vitamin jam. It is perfect for the cold winter weather. It is more of a chutney than a jam.
You will need:
4-5 medium quinces
1 ginger root (about 10cm long, not too stringy, try to find a young one)
100g pine nuts (or walnuts)
dried oregano (optional)
granulated sugar (if your quinces weigh about 900g, take 800 g of sugar)
Start with chopping (or grating) ginger.
Put the sugar in a big pan, add a bit of water and once the sugar dissolves, add the ginger, keep it on low heat for about 10 minutes. Chop the quinces into small cubes and put in the hot syrup. Cook for 45 minutes on slow, stirring occasionally. I also add water, so that all the cubed quince is evenly covered with it. After 45 minutes, add a chopped orange and lemon (remove the pips, but keep the peel as it gives that marmaladey taste to the jam). Cook for another 25-30 minutes, stirring frequently, as at this stage the liquid is reduced.
Add the pine nuts (or the chopped walnuts if you prefer) and the dried oregano (which I don't add personally) and cook for another 5 minutes.
Prepare the jars the usual way and spoon the thick jam in the jars before sealing them.
My Mum offers it to her guests in the typical Russian way. You serve a jam in a little crystal dish with tea. She also often adds a few spoons of jam in a mug and pours boiled water over it, she insists this drink is very nice after a walk in the cold. My brother jokingly calls Mum's teas "chacha". When he comes to visit her, he often asks to make some chacha. This brings lots of memories of Mum adding sliced apples and other fruit to tea.
I hope my story will inspire you to try my great grandma's recipe. Raise a mug of hot tea in her memory!