Ouma Babsie, Marietjie’s grandmother, lived in Onseepkans in the Boesmanland in the North-Western Cape. Because their farm was on the banks of the Orange River it produced top-quality fruit, which Ouma Babsie bottled for the winter months. Her ingemaakte kwepers (bottled quince) left a lasting impression on Marietjie: slices of rosy pink quince preserved in heavy syrup was not something that was easy to come by for city dwellers.
Quince trees are not uncommon in the back sections of older houses in New Zealand, and sometimes sold in local supermarkets. The fruit ripens in late autumn, and is turned into quince jelly and paste by industrious Kiwis, who tends to serve it with cheese, or use it to add extra flavour to gravies.
- 3 large quince
- 1¼ cup (300 ml) white sugar dissolved in
- 1¼ cup (300 ml) warm water
- Place whole quince in an oven dish and bake at 160°C for 2½ to 3 hours, until the skin blisters. Remove from oven and let it cool down.
- Place washed glass preserving jars or bottles, and their lids, in oven to sterilize.
- Prepare the syrup while the quince is cooling: dissolve sugar in water in a large saucepan and boil until it thickens.
- When the quince is cool enough to handle, cut it open, discard the peel, core and seeds and cut into large slices.
- Add quince slices to the syrup and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove sterilized preserving jars or bottles one at a time and fill to the brim with fruit and syrup, sealing with lids kept warm in the oven.
Preserved quince is often not really colorful at all, but the quince that Ouma Babsie preserved, had a beautiful rosy pink colour: the secret is to cook it properly, preferably in a slow oven. Although Marietjie never saw Ouma Babsie when she preserved quince, she can imagine that her farm kitchen must have smelled lovely when she baked the quince in her old coal range.