It looks like a quince, it smells like a quince and it is rock hard, just like a quince.
What is it?
Well, it is almost a quince. It is a relative, it is Japanese quince.
Though the Japanese quince (Chaenomeles) is usually planted for its flowers, the smallish fruits are edible too. The taste is almost identical to the true quince (Cydonia oblonga) and they can be used in the same way. I got a bucket from friends who have one shrub in the garden and are aware of their edibility, but were at a loss as to how to use them. I happily took them on and promised a jar of jelly in return.
Because Japanese quince is a pretty, easy to grow bush, it is present in many gardens that are not primarily edible. Here in the Netherlands it is also a very popular plant for urban landscaping and thus great for city foraging.
Just like the true quince the fruits of the Japanese quince are astringent and harsh when raw but become aromatic and pleasant when cooked. Use them for jams or jellies, on their own or combined with apples. The fruit is best harvested after a frost.
Japanese quince jelly with star anise
If you don’t have enough quince, you can substitute part apples or crabapples, another ornamental edible. The recipe can be used for true quince too. If you can’t find Marmello (organic citrus pectine) or prefer your jelly sweeter, you’ll have to use more sugar.
2 kg Japanese quince
3 pieces of star anise
about 2 l water
2 x Marmello mixed with 600g sugar
450 g of sugar to every 600 ml of liquid
Roughly chop the fruit – be careful, it’s rock hard. Put it in a large pan and cover with water – I used 2 liters. Cook until the fruit falls apart, which takes about an hour and a half. Mash with a potato masher and pour into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Tie the cheesecloth together and suspend it over a large pan (see photo). Let it drip overnight and don’t be tempted to squeeze the cloth or the jelly will be cloudy. This amount yielded 1,5 liters of liquid. Bring the liquid to boil and add the Marmello mixed with sugar. Boil for 1 minute and pour into sterilized jars. Turn the jars upside down for ten minutes. The jelly will keep for about a year.