At Lacewood we had an orchard. The orchard was in two parts; one by the
house and the other back from the chicken run. My husband and I considered
that we had been given an almost sacred trust, to care for and nurture
these fruit trees, all 275 of them. It was wonderful walking through the
orchard just after the weeds had been slashed, smelling the freshly cut
grass, especially in the early morning with the dew still on the ground,
or in the late afternoon with the birds all roosting in the hawthorn hedge
that bordered the orchard. Little did we know what a problem those twittering
birds would be during our first harvest. When the first fat buds burst
that spring and blossomed into clouds of pink and white, we were awestruck
with the beauty of the whole thing. We would walk up and down the rows
marveling at the whole creation, and speculating on the size of the developing
There were six rows of apricots,
two rows of citrus and a mixed row of nashi pears, nectarines and pistachios
in one orchard, whilst the other end consisted of mostly plums, peaches,
peacharines and a couple of pears. When we first arrived we had to pull
out and burn some dead trees, then get the dripper system up to scratch.
Choices then had to be made as to the type of fruit trees we would buy
to fill the gaps. We chose three quince trees from the local tree nursery
to be the first we planted. The nurseryman told us they were Pineapple
Quince. Brian planted them with care, and, following the advice we had
been given, we tied the side branches down with old stockings to encourage
the tree to grow with the branches hanging down. This made for easier
Our first season's quince were only
very few, but in their second year of fruiting we had a marvelous crop
of huge, pale yellow perfumed quinces, with flesh as soft as butter.
They were huge and succulent, perfect for baking, stewing, making jam
My grandma, Agnes, had two recipes
in her handwritten book for quince, one for jam and one for jelly, so
I decided on Quince Jelly, it being a favourite of mine, especially
with whipped cream. The quinces were so easy to clean; just a wipe with
a damp cloth removed the soft down covering the pale lemon outer skin.
Then they went into the pot to be covered with rain water. Boiling for
several hours brought out the beautiful deep rose colour of the quince.
The recipe said to lift out the
fruit and drain through a colander, adding the syrup to that remaining
in the pot, and then discarding the fruit. Having been taught well by
a frugal mother, I could not bring myself to throw away the fruit pulp;
instead I passed it through a mouli mill, added some sugar, vinegar
and chili, and made some great Quince and Chili Sauce.
I also found that Baked Quince was
a wonderful dessert. Following the advice of a friend of mine, I placed
the wiped, quartered and cored fruit in a large lidded baking dish with
sugar, water and a knob of butter, then into the oven on 100 degrees
C all night. In the morning the kitchen was full of the wonderful aroma
of baked, deep red quince - ready to be served with cereal and cream.
Quince paste can also be made with
the discarded pulp. Simply weigh the pulp after passing it through a
sieve to remove seeds, skins etc. and add an equal amount of sugar.
Stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the quince is
reduced to a thick paste, and turns a deep red colour. When it cannot
be reduced further without catching on the bottom of the pan, turn it
into plastic containers with lids. Store in the refrigerator and serve
with cheese, ham or pork. It can also be warmed to serve with a roast.