The Local Food Report: Marmelada

Louiza Azancot is Portuguese, at least originally. She moved to D.C. in the eighties, and to Chatham a few years back, but if her kitchen is any indication, I think she's still Portuguese at heart. I met her at the Orleans Farmers' Market, where she was very carefully picking out quince for marmelada.

Marmelada, if you've never had it, is nothing like marmalade. It is made of quince, not oranges, and although it is a kind of fruit preserve, it is much more firm than the citrus stuff. It's so hard that the Portuguese eat it in slices, alongside a piece of banana maybe or plain or with a hunk of cheese. It's sweet, and pink, and almost floral in the way it smells and tastes.

Louiza learned to make it from her mother, and she's been looking for quince on the Cape now for four years. Someone brought in a batch from Westport the other day—from Noquochoke Orchards—and when Louiza saw the fruit, she was thrilled. Marmelada is a lot of work, she says—boiling and slicing and straining and canning—but it's worth it in the end. It's a tradition from a poor country, and the whole point is to cook down the fruit into a state where it will survive the winter—in bowls covered with parchment paper, left to dry on a cool windowsill. That way, when all that's around is bitter oranges and cheese, people have a reminder of plenty, something to eat.

Of course, these days, Louiza could just go to the supermarket in January for fruit or store away a root cellar of apples, but she says she'd rather not do that. It's tradition, and besides, eating strawberries in the middle of the winter—it's weird. She'd rather eat marmelada, lots of it—even if that's all there is six months of the year.

Click on over here to see what farms in our region are growing quince. And know that for the next few weeks at least, vendors will be selling quince from Noquochoke Orchards in Westport at the farmers' markets in Provincetown and Orleans.


These are rough measurements. Louiza says she doesn't measure; she just tastes and adjusts. Don't be afraid to improvise—according to Louiza, that's what it's all about.

several pounds quince
a pinch of salt
lemon rind
1 cinnamon stick
granulated sugar

Peel and chop the quince. Reserve the skin and the core and put the flesh of the fruit in a pot with cold water (this will stop it from oxidizing). The water should cover the fruit. Add the salt, lemon rind, and cinnamon stick. Bring everything to a boil and simmer until the fruit is very soft.

Turn off the heat and remove the lemon rind and the cinnamon. Strain the fruit and reserve the water.

Blend the quince to a smooth puree using a blender or food processor. Weigh the puree. Put it back in a heavy-bottomed pot and add 2/3 of its weight in sugar. Cook the sugared puree, mixing it gently with a wooden spoon so that it does not coat the bottom of the pot. When you can carve a "runway" and see the bottom of the pan, the marmelada is ready. (The longer it cooks the harder it gets and then it is easier to slice. )

Pour the marmelada into bowls, and cover the surface of the preserve with rounds of parchment paper. Let them dry for a day or two on the counter of a windowsill; then store in a cool, dry place, or in the refrigerator. Stored properly, the preserve should keep through the winter.


Louiza makes quince jelly with the reserved cores and skin from the quince, after she's finished the marmelada. She says it's much softer and more like a typical jelly—the kind you spread on toast.

reserved quince cores and skin (see marmelada recipe, above)
quince cooking water (again, see above)
granulated sugar

Combine the reserved cores and skin and cooking water in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and turn down to low. Simmer for at least an hour, or until the water is reduced by half.

Take the pot off the heat and strain and filter the juice to remove any impurities. Measure the water. For each pint of liquid add a pound of sugar. Combine the sugar and the strained juice in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring the mixture to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. When the juice begins to sheet off a spoon, it has reached the gelling point. Pour it into hot, sterile, jars, and seal with sterile lids. The jelly will keep for a year un-opened.


Susan said...

How ripe do the quinces have to be? These look pretty green still.

Elspeth said...

Hi Susan,

Quince don't ripen the way that say, apples or pears do. They remain firm and green—you would never bite into them raw. You can tell they're ripe (and ready for cooking) by their strong fragrance.

Hope this helps!


Alexandra said...

Any suggestions of what variety to plant here on Cape Cod?

Elspeth said...

Hi Alexandra,

From what I've read, Meech's Prolific Quince is the variety of choice. Not surprisingly, it's known to be very prolific, with good quality fruit. It's hardy to zones 5 or 6, which means here in 7, it should do well. Here's a link to a description of it on the Slow Food website: http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/ark_product_detail/meechs_prolific_quince/ It's one of the varieties they're trying to bring back through the Ark of Taste.

Are you thinking of planting a tree??

All the best,

Emily said...

According to a quince and apple farmer I met in VT last year, quince is also known for its fertility-promoting properties, so be prepared...

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