30 August 2013

And then there's quince. I HATE wasting food - or garden produce. (Apparently the current Pope is with me on this.) Still, I always grew quince mostly because it was so pretty. But with yields like these...

So I started digging - across the web and among the Victorians - who made quince jelly a bit of a signature piece. And unearthed the following list of quince-based recipes from Cooking Light:

  • Five-Spice Duck Breasts with Caramelized Quince
  • Moroccan Lamb Stew with Quince Sambal
  • Polenta with Port-Poached Quince and Blue Cheese
  • Quince-Lemon Marmalade
  • Free-Form Quince and Apple Pie
  • Quince Butter
  • Marmelo-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
  • Poached Quinces
  • Rustic Quince and Sour Cherry Crumble

According to the accompanying website, quinces are an enduring sign of love. Ancient Roman suitors used to give quinces to their lovers as a sign of commitment, while the Greeks believed that the quince was a gift from Aphrodite, which is why it was a custom in ancient Greece to toss whole quinces into bridal chariots. There are even those who claim that quinces may have been the true Forbidden Fruit, because they are both native to the Caucasus (where the Garden of Eden is thought to have been located) and possessed of a pretty shape and a rose-like aroma. Nonetheless, all these recipes seem to be putting a lot of work into doing nothing more than masking the fruit's inherent qualities.

And the Victorians were no better. According to The Household (1896):

This fruit is the last on the long list which has claimed the house-keeper's attention for canning and preserving since the first of June.

The quince is a luscious fruit for canning. For the best results it should be thoroughly ripe, of a bright golden yellow. It differs from all other fruit in one respect; it must always be cooked soft before the sugar is added. If previously added, the quince will be hard and unpalatable.

Select firm quinces without soft places, wipe, pare, and core them, cutting into slices and dropping the slices into cold water until ready for use, to prevent them from drying and discoloring. The cores and parings are used for jelly.

Canned Quince Apple. Take one-half peck of orange quinces, and one peck of sweet apples. Peel, core, and quarter the quinces and apples, placing the cores and parings of the quinces into water sufficient to cover them, and boiling them until they are soft. Throw away the refuse, and, after straining the water, cook the apples in it until they are moderately tender.

Now slice the quarter quinces very thin, and boil in the same water until they can be easily pierced by a fork. Drain the quinces and apples, weigh them, and for every pound of fruit allow half a pound of white sugar. Let the juice and the sugar come to a boil, then add the fruit, which should be nearly covered by the syrup, adding boiling water if there is not sufficient syrup. Let the whole simmer together until the apples are quite soft, then can at once.

Quince Syrup. This is delicious eaten with hot biscuit, waffles, or griddle-cakes. Boil together two cupfuls of water and five cupfuls of granulated sugar for five minutes. Then add the juice of one sour orange, and two grated quinces, boiling all about ten minutes longer. This may be kept a long time if bottled and sealed.

Quince and Apple Jelly. To the peelings and cores from a peck of quinces, allow half a peck of tart apples, wash, quarter and core, but do not peel them. Put all in a kettle with just enough water to show at the edge when the fruit is well pressed down. Boil gently until the apple is reduced to a pulp. Strain through a jelly bag, and to each pint of juice allow a pound of sugar. Heat gradually, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil gently twenty or twenty-five minutes. Put in glass tumblers.

Quince Marmalade. Take ten pounds of ripe, yellow quinces, wash, pare, core, and cut them into small pieces. To each pound of the fruit allow half a pound of white sugar; put the parings and cores into a kettle with enough water to cover them; boil slowly until quite soft; then, having put the chopped-up fruit with the sugar in a porcelain kettle, strain over it, through a cloth, the liquid from the parings, and cover; boil the whole over a clear fire until it becomes quite smooth and thick, keeping it covered except when skimming it, and watching and stirring closely to prevent sticking at the bottom; when cold put in glass jars.

From VictorianTimes.US

So, all things considered, I admit I'm not convinced - mostly because we are emphatically not canners. In fact, after having been assured that "any idiot can make pickles," we managed to produce an algae bloom in our kitchen that probably produced SARS. So I'm not about to venture either quince marmalade or quince syrup. But I can't help wishing that the birds and rodents would eat the quinces instead of the elderberries, raspberries, and gooseberries that they seem to have been feasting upon of late.

© - Erica Obey
Photos © - George Baird