Quince Jelly for a Quarter Day

Bronze group of St Michael and the Devil

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

Splendid stuff.

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 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.

Christmas Day 
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.



  1. I don't think I'll ever get fed up looking at your quince jelly. I made Crab Apple & Chilli jelly this year, I am so proud of myself as I feel that I have lost the ability to cook properly.

    I love the quarter days, there is a timelessness about them and Michaelmas is my favourite. Great post Sue, thank you.

  2. I can't stop looking at your jars of jelly! Apart from anything else they bring back happy memories of my grandmother's larder shelves. Her blackcurrant jelly was to die for, and her crab apple. I'm now feeling quite sad I didn't make any jelly myself this year. So I shall just keep looking at your jelly jewels instead!

  3. What a very interesting post, I have learned a lot, and not only about how to make quince jelly! Well done.

  4. Looks wonderful, so pretty too! Thanks for sharing :)

  5. look at the beautiful amber colour of the Quince Jelly all pure and imperfection free.

  6. Pati from London5:02 pm BST

    very interesting, Sue! I think your jelly looks amazing, the colour is fabulous!! Happy Michaelmas day! x Pati

  7. Well I've learned something new today. Thank you.

    I'm with you in not tiring of the sight of freshly bottled preserves. My very own works of art.

  8. Stained glass windows: exactly. I marveled at their pellucid beauty until I got to the end of the post where you do them justice so well with the metaphor.

  9. That is such an autumn-y colour! I want to have a go at crab apple and chilli this year although I need to get out and start picking.

  10. OOhhh, I'm just about to put my quinces in the jelly bag to drip- great to see your jelly done & looking gorgeous!

  11. My mother has been fiendishly making jams and jellies for the church fair recently. I'll content myself with buying a pot.

  12. History and cookery all in one, wonderful. Got to get me some of those quinces. Kilner have just brought out some baby sized jars, I bought half a dozen today and intend to decant colourful spices into them. There is nothing quite like a jar filled with something delicious to get you into cooking mode.

  13. I just found your blog via Attic 24. I have to be careful not to look at it before bed or I start getting hungry and want to raid my fridge:-) Your cooking is amazing. How on earth do you do all that you do? I would love a post sometime on how you do it all. Your an inspiration!

  14. Oh! They are beautiful. I've been given some quinces this year, they are heavenly. I made Karen (lavender and Lovage)'s fantastic quince and Ginger marmalade with rosewater - wonderful!
    I'm not great with jellies so will admire yours from afar:-)

  15. I loved reading this post, thanks. Ax

  16. i love your post so much with the information about the quarter days..i'd never heard of the expression before..and the prettiness of your quince jelly..

  17. How interesting. These are the things I feel I ought to know and that my kids need to know! We've had lots of conversations about education this week and how we are losing so much by trying to keep kids entertained.
    We have some strange fruit growing by our kitchen window that look very similar to your quinces, apparently they are called Loquats, must see what I can do with them...

  18. Wonderful post Sue xox

  19. Absolutely gorgeous! Every right to be proud of those perfect jars of jelly!!!

  20. Good grief. It's rather terrifying when it bubbles up like that! It looks so beautiful once it's in its jars.

  21. Anonymous11:53 am BST

    Dearest, I truly loved your text about Michaelmas Day. I´m from the north of Spain but I have been living in Brazil all my adult life and it is very difficult to find quinces here, anyway I still remember the quince smell in my great-grandmother cupboards. I felt it again today seeing your fuzzy quinces. Thank you. Maria

  22. Sue,

    Long time, no comment. Hope you are well. My quinces are still on the tree and I'm feeling very behindtimes (is that a word?) looking at your glowing jars.

    Very pleased George did well in his exams (I told you it has been a long time).


  23. Hi Sue,
    I never get bored with your posts. And i quite agree the jewel-like colour of the quince jelly is lovely. I know you will be appauled, but i`ve never tasted quince jelly but yours does look so inviting.
    Love Carole from Rossendale


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