Meeting Hazel Griffiths, known as the Fruit Magpie for her award winning fruit cheeses was one of my favourite days this year. Tasting a range of her full flavoured and correctly textured cheeses inspired me to make more cheese this Autumn.

Quince

Certain fruits are naturals for making fruit cheeses; damsons, apples and quinces are popular in recipe books. Quince, like Seville oranges in marmalade is regarded as the King of cheese.
Not to be confused with ornamentals, culinary Quinces are large, yellow fruits with a perfumed aroma and a honey flavour. Originating from Asia, quince trees were recorded in England in 1275. The poet Chaucer referred to them as coines from the French coing. During the twentieth century their decline in popularity stimulated the Brogdale Horticultural Trust in Kent to plant a commercial orchard.

Hazel’s prolific Quince tree in her garden in London is a stark contrast to ours. Planted almost 10 years ago, it fruited in the second year and since then has stubbornly refused to fruit. Possibly it does not like its unsheltered position in the garden. Each year I hope for a change of heart but without fruit I have to buy in Quince if I want to make any cheese, jelly or jam.

Quince Cheese

There are different ways of preparing quince for a cheese. Either chop the whole fruit and cook in water until softened ready for sieving, oven cook the fruit, or pressure cook the fruit.

This year I decided to pressure cook the fruit to save time and best capture the flavour of the quince. Following Hazel’s advice I reduced the sugar from the traditional 450g purée to 450g sugar to two thirds the weight of sugar. This improves the texture and reduces the possibility of the cheese catching during cooking.

1.4kg quince
800ml water
45ml lemon juice
Granulated sugar

1. Wash and roughly chop the fruit. Place in a pressure cooker and add the water. Close the lid and bring to full (15lb) pressure. Maintain the pressure for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pan cool until safe to open.

2. If possible, remove any of the hard cores. This helps reduce a gritty texture showing up in the cheese. Mash the fruit then rub through a sieve. Weigh the pulp and weigh out two thirds of the weight in sugar. Add the lemon juice to the purée.

3. Pour the purée into a large clean pan and add the sugar. If you have time warm the sugar first in an ovenproof bowl 120C for 20 minutes. Put a plate in a freezer to chill.

4. Slowly dissolve the sugar, turn up the heat and boil the mixture, stirring constantly until the contents of the pan has darkened and you can draw a spoon through the bottom of the pan and see a clear line. Also, the cheese should fall in a thick heavy flake off a spoon. For a further check if the cheese is ready, put a small blob on the chilled plate and look for it to set like a jelly sweet on the plate. It should hold its shape and be slightly rubbery and not spreadable.

5. Pour the cheese into tins or plastic moulds, lightly greased with glycerine. Alternatively Silicon moulds are good and won’t require greasing.

6. Leave for at least 12hours to cool and set. Store the cheese wrapped in baking parchment and airtight boxes. Keep for a couple of months before eating as cheeses mature in flavour.

Chilli Apple Cheese

With an abundant crop of chillies and cooking apples, I was drawn to try Hazel’s Chilli Apple Cheese recipe, featured on her website. I used Howgate Wonders ( although Bramleys would work just as well ) and Aji Pickled Frog chillies. I doubled the chilli in the recipe and I’m hoping the strength will suit the chilli grower! The recipe is perfect for a beginner or an experienced preserver. I added 200ml water to cook the apples, so fluffy they fell into a purée, without sieving. Hazel’s method for cooking the chilli in lemon juice quickly softened the chilli. The small batch set within 10minutes. Comprehensive instructions made it easy to produce an excellent cheese and one I’ll be making again.

Links

Chilli Apple Cheese Recipe

Damson Cheese Recipe

November 3rd, 2016|Tags: |