Oh the quince! I have found you!
When Gourmet Magazine put a quince with its fine pubescence on the cover of the magazine last month, the girls could not stop asking about it.
What is this?!
A quince, like I said.
A quince! A quince! What is a quince?
A special fruit, I answered. That we cannot eat raw, that we can cook and it becomes pink and sweet. A fruit that has been around for ages.
I said these things with surety, but I confess to you now- I had never had a quince in all my life. I committed that sin of parenting: I pretended knowledge.
But now I know. Back to my now weekly canning party, and this week it was quinces.
Have you seen a quince? I bet your neighbor has a quince tree in their yard. I bet they don't even care. I bet they have never even eaten one of these marvelous fruit.
Quinces have been worshipped throughout history for their perfume and their loveliness. They are, perhaps, the most feminine fruit I have ever experienced, maybe even more than lychee nuts.
When I put quinces in to roast in my oven, the house began to smell like Morocco. My little ranch house smelled like an ancient Persian palace. The smell of a roasting quince is the opposite of antiseptic; it is full of earth and rooms that have been swept clean with lavender and nothing else. It is what happens when you use soap made of rose petals.
I would tell you to run out to the supermarket and grab yourself a couple pounds of these beauties. But you are in luck. It probably won't be that easy. You might not even be able to find these at the farmer's market. You might have to wander a bit, trespass, check out the trees. When you find a neglected quince tree, and you will, knock on the door of its owner and ask very nicely. Tell them you'll bring them back some chutney.
Today you get two recipes. Because when you find yourself a quince, I want to make sure that you have options.
The first is a chutney. We started off with a chutney recipe randomly found on the internet, but then we played and stretched it and warped it, and at our last canning morning when we tasted the end result, no one could say a word. I'm serious about this- as someone who knows her stuff put it, "It is so good I want to rub it on my ears."
The second is what you should have for dessert the moment you find your quinces.
So there you have it, quinces two ways.
makes about 6 cups
12 medium quinces, leaves removed
2 cups sugar
1 cup apple cider
2 Tablespoons minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
the juice of two lemons
Roast the quinces on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes, turning the fruit over midway for even cooking. Remove and let cool so that you can work with them. Remove the peels. Quarter them and remove the cores and surrounding pith. This will be a bit awkward, but with a good paring knife, you will be okay. Place the quince pieces in a large stock pot with the lemon juice, sugar, ginger and apple cider. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the fruit mixture begins to boil. Then mash with a potato masher until it is chunky, but relatively uniform. Lower heat and cook for another twenty minutes, stirring frequently. Add spices and put into sterilized jars. For more canning details, go here.
Quince Poached in Vanilla Cardamom Syrup
adapted from Gourmet, September 2009
6-8 medium quinces
6 cups water
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 lemon, cut into slices
8 green cardamom pods, gently crushed
1 vanilla bean (you can use a spent vanilla bean that has already had its seeds removed if you have one, it will still do the job)
As above, roast quinces on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the fruit mid-way. Remove them from the oven. While they are cooling, combine all of the other ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Peel, quarter and core the quinces, removing the pith. Cut into 1/2 inch slices. Put into simmering syrup and weigh the quinces down with a round of parchment. Cook for about 30 minutes. Serve warm or store in the syrup, chilled, for up to two weeks.