Collecting quince and jam making: la cotognata

What’s “mele cotogne”?  In English, I just found out, they are known as quince.  Last week my aunt Marcella invited me to her farm to collect quince which this year have been really abundant. The branches of the trees were bent with so many apples!

I was really keen on collecting them to make jam as quince jam is incredibly delicious and it is worth all the work needed to make it.

As these apples were organic many had bruises and looked anything but perfect, but hey, who wants perfect looking fruit anyway? In supermarkets fruit which is treated with many pesticides looks amazing, it’s big and of an inviting colour and then tastes of nothing.

Quince is a funny apple: it is inedible if raw and all you can do with it is make jam or jelly; “la cotognata” is a delicious sweet treat popular all over Italy especially in the south. Grandmas and mammas are very busy at jam making at this time of year!

So off we started picking, the children seemed quite keen!

in the fields collecting quince apples

And with so many apples to pick! I love being in the countryside!

Quince Apples


Box after box…

carrying apples

quince apples

And now let the work commence!

chopping apples 1

For this jam you will need:

  • 1 kg quince
  • 600 g sugar (you can add more if you prefer it sweeter)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 glasses of water

First you need to wash the apples well, then without peeling them chop them into cubes and remove the core and seeds

Making Quince Jam

Place them in a large saucepan, add two glasses of water and cook them over a medium heat until the fruit is softened and mushy. This will take about 30 minutes or longer.

cooking apples

Making Quince Jam

If you prefer a smoother consistency you can now sieve the apples; I didn’t as I like the texture of the fruit in jams.

Add the sugar and the lemon juice and continue cooking at a low heat for another hour stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

When the jam looks homogeneous and soft pour it straight away into clean jars which you will promptly seal with their top and put them upside down so that the vacuum will form and the jam will preserve for a long time. Let the jars cool down.

Making Quince Jam

And wasn’t this worth all the effort? This jam is delicious at any time of the day, so delicious on fresh bread!

Cotognata or Quince Jam

is is a quince fruit, in case you’re not familiar with them (as I wasn’t prior to this past weekend). They are lumpy and somewhat pear-shaped, with fuzz almost like you’d find on a peach. Generally considered inedible when raw due to their sour taste, they smell divine, however – all sweet and perfume-like – which makes sense when you consider the quince tree, Cydonia oblonga, is from the family Rosaceae. Here are a bunch of yummy-sounding quince recipes, should you find yourself with a surplus of quince but no desire to can.
One thing I didn’t mention in my review of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is how it has inspired me to try my hand in the kitchen. As I may have mentioned, I don’t really like to cook. I live with a man who is practically a Michelin-starred chef (or would be, if they visited our place for dinner) so why even try? But Animal, Vegetable, Miracle really made me reconsider my stance. I’m not even really sure why — it expounds local eating, but no where does it say, “And make it yourself!” Although I guess that’s kind of implicit in a slow-food love poem, anyway.

Which brings me to how I ended up with 10lbs (4.5kg) of quince. Ben and I were at the farmer’s market on the weekend when we saw boxes of the unsightly-looking fruit. We’d never bought quince before. In fact, the only reason we even paused was that when we were in France last May, we stayed at Le Manoir de la Maison Blanche in Amboise, where they served delicious homemade jams with our breakfast baguette. One of the jams, of course, was quince.

Memories of France, combined with my new commitment to local eating (and cooking!) somehow convinced me that buying mountains of quince was a good idea. We would make jam. It would be fun, and the results would be delicious. I could be one of those (increasingly few) people who brought a jar of homemade jam when dropping in for a visit. Nevermind that the only thing I knew about jam-making was based on a novel called Blue Jelly (subtitled “Love Lost and the Lessons of Canning”). But, I thought, how hard can it be? My grandpa used to pickle eggs. Surely jam was easier.


I don’t know about eggs, but jam was easy. And we haven’t died of botulism. Yet. Here’s how we did it:

– See more at:

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

10 Responses to Collecting quince and jam making: la cotognata

  1. gloria

    Look delicious I love quince jam!!

  2. Louise

    Hi Alida!
    Oh my gosh, is that your little boy? He is absoltuely adorable!!! What a head turner he is going to be, if he isn’t already, lol…

    Would you believe I have never had quince? I think it is available in the stores here but I couldn’t tell you when. I may have even seen the jam before but can’t say that I have ever tried it. Interesting that you can’t eat it raw. I wonder who figuted out it was worth cooking to gain its goodness, lol…Thank you so much for sharing, Alida…

    P.S. I just did a post about Eggplant today. I was wondering, have you ever heard of melanzane al cioccolato?

    • Alida

      Do you know I was wondering myself who actually figured out to cook these apples in order to make them edible! I have heard of melanzane al cioccolato before but I have never tried them. Interesting. I will pop over to your site soon to check it out!

  3. Angie (@angiesrecipess)

    o lucky you! Homemade jam from homegrown quiche (ok, from your aunt’s farm)…that’s something!

  4. Dottie Sauchelli Balin

    Dear Alida,
    You won’t believe this, but I have had Quince Jam before. I have to say that I love it. Have never made it, but I have had a few jars. My friend has made it and she gave me a few jars. it is quite delicious, especially on toast or a biscuit. As usual, dear friend your photos are amazing. I enjoy seeing your family in the photos. You are so cute…Your children must love it when they are in the photos. They looked like they had a wonderful time helping you and your hubby fill the baskets will all of the quinces. It doesn’t look that hard to make, it is the prep that takes the time… You must have been tired from cutting and peeling all of the quinces. There is something about eating fresh foods from the trees and garden. Thanks for sharing this lovely post.. Hope that you have a good next few days…
    Dottie 🙂

    • Alida

      Yes it is a bit of work involved in preparing these apples but gosh, I think this is my favourite jam ever. It is worth all the efforts! Thank you for your always kind comments Dottie. Have a good rest of the week x

  5. Kate - Gluten Free Alchemist

    It is absolutely the time for jam making isn’t is? There is such an abundance of fruit right now and it is the perfect way to preserve it. You certainly have a mountain of fruit there!!!! Looks like a lovely jam………

  6. Alida

    Almost… it took a while to peel them all. I shared the work with my mum and we will share the jam too 🙂

  7. Carolyn

    I thought you said in the post that they didn’t need to be pealed. I have two ornamental quince bushes in central Utah. Are they different than quince trees? They are about 7-8 feet high. There is lots of fruit on them which is green right now. The seeds in them are in rows and much more plentiful than apples. I tried making jam with them one year, but wasn’t very successful. My father had grafted a quince branch on an apple tree many years ago in Portland, Oregon and my mother made jam which was my dad’s favorite. Should they be yellow when they are ripe?

    • Alida

      Hi Carolyn, yes they should be yellow and you don’t need to peel them. Unfortunately I don’t know whether the bushes you describe are quinces but possibly not if they are ornamental plants. Quinces are usually large apples as well. This summer I tried my mum’s quince’s jam is just so delicious!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *