Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Robin's Bounty

Robin sent me these knobbly chaps recently

The true quince, Cydonia oblonga, (as opposed to Chaenomeles japonica the ornamental or japanese quince) is something of a rarity in English gardens, so can usually only be obtained if you have, or know someone who has, a quince tree. Ornamental quinces are often seen in gardens and indeed do produce a quince like fruit in the autumn, but in my experience this is nothing like the fruit of the proper quince. They look a bit similar, in that they are both hard and completely inedible raw, but the true quince, when cooked has the ability to be transformed  into a fragrant amber puree, quite unlike anything else. Incidentally it's said that the "apple" of the Garden of Eden was in fact a quince, though it speaks volumes for Eve's powers of temptation that she could lure anyone with such a sour knobbly thing as a raw quince! Maybe it wasn't really the fruit he was after....

Anyway, Robin was kind enough to send me quite a lot of quinces, so I've been playing about with various recipes and ideas for using them. They are famously partnered with apples, and bring a special fragrance to a traditional apple pie which lifts it quite out of the ordinary. But it has to be said that the flavour is fairly intense, and even if you like it, as I do, it can get a bit overpowering after several days of experimental simmering and stirring. So I intend to set aside my creations for a day or two and then come back and see what works best. So far I've made Quince and Apple Jelly, Quince and Cranberry Preserve, Quince Cheese, or Membrillo, and Quince Mincemeat.

Quinces are hard and curiously downy, so first of all you need to wash off the downy covering, then chop them roughly and either boil them until soft and strain through a jelly bag, or steam them in your Mehu Maija hot juice extractor machine if you have one. 
 You will end up with a quantity of clear juice for making jelly, which should be sparkling clear

and quite a lot of pulp that can be seived and boiled with sugar to make quince cheese, which the Spanish dry and eat with cheese, apparently. I've never tried it so I will see how it turns out.

I found I had rather a lot of quince cheese, so I tried mixing it with some of my home made mincemeat, and it's quite delicious. It adds a rich flavour and moistness to the mincemeat which I really like. And finally from an idea I saw on Marisa's blog I cooked up some of it with cranberries to make a Cranberry and Quince preserve. I quite enjoy a dollop of Cranberry sauce with a cold turkey sandwich, but the addition of the quince lifts it out of the everyday and into the seasonal luxury, and even though it's a lot of trouble to go to, as they say on the adverts,
You're Worth It


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