Quince cider – a new experiment for 2018

This year has been our best ever for Quinces in the orchard.  Much as we love Quince Crumble Tarts there is a limit to just how many of these you can eat.

BBC Good Food

Photo Credit:  BBC Good Food

Rather than simply leave the fruit to rot on the compost heap we thought we would explore another method of preserving them and enjoying them over the coming months.  Although we make cider from our apples every year we have not tried quince ‘cider’ before so this is very much an experiment.  I have used the term ‘cider’ as I am not trying to make a quince wine.  I am looking for something that is thirst quenching, fresh and sparking and not as alcoholic as a wine would be.

The fruits have such a fragrant bouquet that they should make a very enjoyable drink in theory but I can imagine that if you use too many the flavour could be over-powering.  Having read various recipes this is the approach we decided to adopt to make our first gallon of trial quince ‘cider’.

I decided to use eight large quince fruits per gallon.  Some recipes suggest 20 per gallon but I think this would result in a flavour that might be too strong.  As the fruits are so rock solid even when ripe they could not be crushed and pressed in the same way as apples.   The quinces were washed, cored and grated (skin on).

The pulp was then added to 4 pints of water in a large pan and brought to the boil.  It was boiled for 15 minutes and then the liquid was strained from the pulp.  Other recipes have suggested that boiling for longer than 15 minutes makes it difficult to clear after fermentation.  The resulting liquor certainly had a very pleasant flavour.

To increase the sugar levels for fermentation I dissolved 1kg of granulated sugar in 2 pints of water and then added this to the quince juice.  This resulted in a specific gravity measurement of SG1080 which is perhaps higher than I might have wished for.  If it ferments out then this would be in excess of 9% alcohol which is pretty potent for a cider.  Time will tell whether the result will be on the sweet side with a lower alcohol content or drier with a higher alcohol level.

A further 2 pints of cold water was added to the must to make up the 8 pints (1 gallon) and this was allowed to cool to tepid before adding a cider yeast.  I also added 2 teaspoons of pectolase to help the cider clear.

All that is left to do now is stand back, admire and wait for the result.  Usually my apple cider is ready to rack in mid-November and it will be interesting to see if the quince cider performs in the same way.

I will let you know how it goes!

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Six on Saturday: The fruits of our labours

Harvest time is certainly upon us and this week’s ‘Six on Saturday’ highlights some of the autumn produce coming out of the garden.  It has been a rather strange year with some plants and trees setting really well and other producing absolutely no fruit at all.


One:  Grapes

Last autumn we described the process of pruning the red and white outdoor grape vines ( Pruning time for the outdoor grape vines ).  They have both really enjoyed the hot weather this year and produced (after thinning) large juicy bunches of sweet grapes.  When we planted these a few years back I was rather sceptical as to whether we would get anything worth eating here in the UK Midlands but they have both exceeded all my expectations.

You can eat them fresh but they also make a lovely grape juice.  This is simply done by putting them in the food processor for a very quick pulse to mash the fruits and then straining.  Absolutely delicious.

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Two:  Apples

It is not quite apple picking time but the Golden Noble, Bramley seedling, Lord Lambourne and Egremont Russet (pictured) have all done very well.  The Tydemans Late Orange, however, has no fruit on it this year and we have no pears at all (see:  The Orchard – beautiful in spring, productive in autumn for further details of the varieties we grow in the orchard).

Next month (October) will be peak harvest time for the apples and on a warmish, sunny day I will get out my cider making equipment for the annual cider making bonanza. ( see:  How to make cider from all those spare apples  ).  With so little water this year it may well take some time to get a decent yield of juice out of the apples.

P1020133 Russet


Three:  Greenhouse and polytunnel fruits

At the peak of the heatwave the greenhouse fruits were certainly struggling a bit and we suffered a lot from bottom end rot on the early tomatoes.  This is supposed to be caused by irregular watering but I seemed to be watering all the time.  I think the plants were just unable to cope with the temperatures and were in a semi-wilted state for a number of weeks.

However, as the temperatures cooled the tomatoes have recovered and are now producing a regular crop of large red, tasty fruit.  I have grown the variety ‘Shirley’ for the last few years and found it very reliable and full of flavour.

The cucumbers did not seem to mind the heat and produced a huge crop.  The variety I have most success with is the variety ‘Euphya’ from Marshalls. You only get 5 seeds but your get five plants from them and they produce far more high quality cucumbers than we could ever eat.  Most of the hamlet here receive free cucumbers at some point in the summer.

The final fruit crop in the polytunnels has been the Sweet Peppers.  The variety I have most success with in both hot and cold summers is the ox-horn type pepper Diablo.  They produce huge sweet peppers (pictured) and are currently ripening to red in the polytunnel.

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Four:  Plums

Our plum tree is now over 25 years old and beginning to show its age.  When we saw this variety (Warwickshire Drooper) in the catalogue when we were first planting the orchard we just had to include it.  We live in Warwickshire after all.

This year it has had a huge crop despite an increasing number of dead looking branches.  It is a lovely plum to just eat fresh off the tree with a slightly plum wine flavour. Yum!

P1020130 Warwickshire Drooper Plum


Five:  Quince

Another tree that has had a bumper crop this year has been the Quince.  You could grow it purely as an ornamental tree as it has a mass of large pink flowers in the spring.  When ripe, the fruit has a delicate and beautiful fragrance.

They are a lovely fruit to eat if prepared well (see:  Quinces ).

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Six:  Enjoying the harvest throughout the winter

Although it is lovely to eat all this seasonal produce at this time of year now is the time to preserve the harvest for those long cold winter months.  This is probably the topic of a separate blog still to be written but we do make a lot of use of a wonderful little kitchen gadget – our Tefal jam maker.

Home grown fruit jam on hot buttered toast on a cold winter morning.  I will leave you with that thought!

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

Quinces

One of the beauties of growing your own fruit is that you can grow things that you don’t often come across in the supermarket.  Quince (Cydonia oblonga) is something that is well worth growing both for its large, delightful pink blossom in the spring and its large yellow fruits in the autumn.

Quince fruit

The tree in our orchard was planted in 1995 and did take some years to get going but now fruits reliably year after year.  The fruits do seem prone to scab but this only effects the fruits on the surface and does not impact the flesh at all.

Quince flowers dusted with pink

At first glance the fruits might seem daunting being hard and solid and difficult to cut through.  You will need to feel strong to prepare these!  However, peeled and cored and boiled for around an hour in a limited amount of water creates a wonderful, fragrant peach coloured puree that is quite unique.  Mash up (technical term!) with a hand blender and add sugar, lemon and cinnamon and you have the most wonderful puree for use in a wide range of desserts.

The following Quince Crumble Tart from BBC Good Food recipe is one we have done many times and always works well.   The quinces will fill your house with a beautiful quince perfume.

Quince Crumble Tart

Tip: We freeze cooked fruit in large muffin trays.  When frozen tip them out into a bag, label and pop back in the freezer.  You can then take out exactly the amount you need when you need it.  One frozen block fits nicely in a ramekin dish, then topped with crumble mix and placed in the oven gives a quick pud.

Join us on this journey- creating a beautiful English country garden.

We are starting a new era and setting out on an exciting journey – we would like you to share this with us.

We are Carol and Steve Lucey, a husband and wife team with a life long interest in growing beautiful plants, being creative and enjoying the countryside.  We are now in a position to spend more time developing our own garden, building on over 30 years working in agriculture and horticulture research, as a garden designer and professional gardener and more recently growing a wide range of wonderful British cut flowers.  For the last six years we have had great fun, developing a new business providing locally grown British cut flowers and events floristry for weddings, gifts and celebrations.

For a number of years our flower garden, though beautiful has been a rather utilitarian space.  The objective has been to grow as many flowers as possible.  Not a bad objective but we feel it is now time to develop the garden into a more creative and beautiful space, focusing on the enjoyment of wonderful plant combinations rather than purely seeking the biggest income.

Although it is a great pleasure in its own right a garden is for sharing and through this blog we would like to share our successes and the inevitable failures and ask you for your advice and comment.

As well as the development of the garden we are keen to exploit what it produces.  Much of the garden yields produce to eat and we will be sharing some of the exciting recipes and drinks that result.  We would love to receive your recipes as well.

Our life in wedding floristry also remains a passion and over the months we will bring together some of the wonderful flower combinations that you may wish to try out yourself.

Finally, we share the garden with the local wildlife and will share the rich biodiversity that we have around us.

We look forward to hearing from you over the coming years!