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)
1 orange
1 lemon
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!


  1. I really wanted to make membrillo for my friend's christmas's to go with cheese but have been wondering how on earth I can package it safely without it getting ruined.
    After reading this I'll be making quince jam instead. Same basic idea, much less squishy when wrapped!

  2. Thank you, ladies!
    Kat, I have just posted a jar of the quince jelly to Scotland. One kilner jar in a fat layer of the babble wrap. Hope it will arrive in one piece. I am doing a swap with another blogger who writes about food, and she is sending me her homemade green tomato chutney.

  3. I really fancy having a go at that. I already do my own pickles and jams so I am definately going to try this. Thank you :)

  4. This brings back memories of quince growing in my granny's garden. I always wondered what you could do with them. Think I'll make this in memory of my granny this winter and see what it's like, maybe my child-me will be impressed!!

  5. I'll definately be trying this. My granny used to have quince growing in her garden and I never knew what could be done with them. Thanks for sharing!

  6. lovely! I have quince waiting to make jelly...now I;m not sure!!!!

  7. my Mum loves quince, even when it's raw...I know I know it's very sour but she just adores it. She also makes jam every year and her favourite - she can make a very good version of tinned quince which can be used for up to 1-2 years as a little treat :)

  8. Love the story behind this jam. We used to grow quinces but never got round to trying quince jam or jelly and unfortunately the shrub has now died.

    If its OK, I would like to put this post into the Toast a Post linky by http://www.nlpmum.com/

    Deb at http://www.aspieinthefamily.com

  9. Thank you, Deb, I'll be delighted.

  10. A great recipe with a story. Love it! Now I need to find a source of quince ;-) I love the history bit. I recently posted a pastry recipe from my great grandmother in Germany http://www.nlpmum.com/food-2/great-grandmas-pastry - can you make quince pie?

  11. Lovely story....will have try it out!!!

  12. This is incredible.

    It's funny that you mention chacha as in Punjabi it is also pronounced cha!

  13. I've always wanted to try quince because my favourite poem as a child was 'The Owl and the Pussycat'. I loved hearing how they 'dined on mince and slices of quince' and always wanted to try some...but I've never seen this for sale anywhere. Clearly quince isn;t a big seller here in Coventry :-)

  14. Maybe the farmers' markets are the best place to find quinces in season? Our local one had a seller with wonderful garden produce including quinces.

  15. Love jam, although I have never tried quince jam. Lovely old photo - and I love the history and gossip too -friend running off with a Nobleman!

  16. Oooh, never tried quince jam, you make it sound delicious.

  17. This doesn't sound too difficult, I may try it.