25 October 2009

Quince Heaven

Are they not beautiful? I have cooked with quinces all day and still have enough of these stunners sitting on my kitchen worktop, emitting their sweet fragrance and waiting for me to try any and every quince recipe I come across. Naturally, I have read extensively and will bring my own ideas to the cookery task ahead. Quince recipes seem to be variations on a few popular themes - quince tarts, candied sweets or roast quince, the latter either as desert or accompanying a meat dish - and naturally, I want more. With so many quinces to use, I am determined to stumble across the ultimate quince delight! I want to be in quince heaven. Anyone know the way?

Scientific methodology demands to use my stock in as many, diverse ways as possible. I already made quince cheese and jelly a little while ago - and referring back to that entry, I should probably tell you that I have now bottled my raspberry vinegar and started to use it. The clear version might be prettier in the bottle but do not underestimate its ugly sibling; I mashed up the raspberries for a coarse, thickish vinegar and it makes for incredibly fruity salad dressings. Years ago I had such a dressing in one particular restaurant and always wanted to discover its secret. I think I have.

Back to the quince. In my research I read somewhere that quince seeds are supposed to contain small amounts of cyanide. Not sure whether to believe this (I have used quinces, seeds and all, for years without adverse effects) but just to be on the safe side, I have now started to de-seed my quinces.

Quince Vinegar
This is truly experimental, and the results will not be due for another few weeks. But I thought it worth a try. I can think of many succesful kinds of fruit infused vinegar, so why not a quince version? Wash and quarter two quinces, core them - keeping the seeds - and cut into small chunks. Leave open to oxidise for up to a day, if you are after a deeper colour; or use straight away. Place into a pot with a little white wine, cook gently until soft, ca. 10 minutes. Pour into a sterilized jar and add 1/2 l of white wine vinegar. Leave to infuse for several weeks.

Quince Jam
I also made a sweet quince jam, inspired by a recipe I found on Turkish food blog. I liked the idea of using grated quince, and the result is a jam with strings of candied fruit. I am not sure I would want to eat great quantities on bread but I could imagine it as a condiment with cheese or as a filling for small jam tarts. Or with creme fraiche on home-made scones?
Surprisingly, grating quinces is easier than cutting them, and the riper the fruit the easier it will be to handle. One of my quinces was so very ripe that I tried a small piece raw. Indeed, I can now believe the claim of some that a very ripe quince may be eaten raw. It was certainly far less adstringent than your ordinary quince. So give them time to ripen! Another positive side effect of letting your quinces mature before you use them is that they sweetly perfume your home in the meantime.

The ratio is, as often, 500 g of fruit to 600 g of sugar; you will also need one tablespoon of lemon juice and a little water. I got three jam jars worth out of these quantities. Wash and grate your quinces; quarter the remains (obviously, you can only grate so far if using a handheld grater) and extract the seeds, if you want to collect them; discard the rest. By the way, I keep my seeds covered to prevent them drying out. Put the grated quince in a heavy saucepan and just about cover with water. Boil until soft, ca. 10 minutes. Add your sugar and boil again until you reach jam consistency. This take a little longer, maybe up to 30 minutes. Add a spoonful of lemon juice, boil again and pour into sterilized jam jars. Turn these upside down for a few minutes, turn again.

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