St Michael and the Devil, Coventry Cathedral by Jacob Epstein
And there was a war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Revelation 12: 7-9
Today is Michaelmas Day, the feast of St Michael and All Angels. Michaelmas Day is one of the four old British Quarter Days.
Lady Day 25th of March
Lady Day 25th of March
Lady Day is the feast of the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, it also corresponds to the spring equinox when day and night are equal.
Midsummer Day 24th of June
The feast of St John the Baptist. It also corresponds roughly to the summer solstice on 21st of June.
Michaelmas Day 29th of September.
The autumn equinox is on 23rd of September.
It also corresponds to the winter solstice or midwinter's day on 21st of December.
Quarter Days were the days when rents were due and servants hired. Michaelmas was the time when hiring fairs were held, when farm labourers and domestic servants could offer their labour. These fairs were called mop fairs in Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire. Many survive as funfairs and are still held around Michaelmas. There is one in Kings Norton in Birmingham where I used to teach. The arrival of the mop would send the children into a frenzy of excitement. Michaelmas is also the traditional start for university terms and the autumn term is referred to as the Michaelmas term at many universities. Michaelmas is a traditional time to eat a goose. Geese fattened up on the gleanings left by the harvesters would be served with apple sauce made from the new crop of apples. Following my altercation with a goose at Christmas I have decided not to uphold that particular tradition. However, I have been indulging in a bit of dangerous cooking today. More boiling pans of jelly. Quince this time. This method of making jelly can be used for other fruit such as crab apples, elderberries, damsons, plums, currants, blackberries.
The fuzzy down covering the quince rubs off easily.
I used about 6 kg of quinces and made the jelly in two batches.
Cut the washed quinces into chunks and add water to just cover the fruit.
Simmer for at least an hour until completely soft.
Leave to cool before you strain in a jelly bag or cloth suspended over a bowl like Concha uses here.
You are usually advised to let the cooked fruit drip overnight but as I have an abundance of quinces I let it drip for a couple of hours and still had plenty of juice. You can extract more juice if you squeeze the bag but then you risk producing a cloudy jelly and who wants a cloudy jelly? Not me.
Once you have your juice measure it. Then pour it into a preserving pan or very big saucepan (preserving pan is best because of its shape). Add one pound of granulated white sugar for each pint of juice.
Heat gently stirring to dissolve the sugar. When it has all dissolved whack up the heat and bring to the boil like this.
Fun isn't it? Look how much it climbs up the pan. This was why I made my jelly in two batches. I had three and half pints of juice and three and half pounds of sugar in the pan. Be careful and keep your hand on the temperature control. If you have toddlers under foot it's probably best to postpone this sort of thing until they are school age or in bed. Start timing when it is at full pelt. Test after five minutes to see if it has set by dropping a little jelly on a cold saucer (pull the pan carefully off the heat when you do this). It will wrinkle slightly if it is ready. Mine took fifteen minutes but don't worry if you've been boiling forever and it doesn't seem to have set. Pot it anyway and you will probably find it is perfect by the time it has cooled right down. Store it somewhere cool. I put mine in my garage and store in the fridge when we are using it.
When ready pot into sterilised jars. I sterilise mine in a 100 degree oven for about 20 mins. I put them in the oven just before I start heating the juice and sugar.
Six kg of quince yielded ten one pound jars of jelly.
Sorry if you are fed up with photos of my jars of jelly but how could I not take a picture of something this beautiful? My very own stained glass windows.