a quince a day keeps the doctor away

quince paste

But probably not the dentist, if eating quinces in this form: quince paste!

I have amazing neighbours with amazing gardens and priceless old-fashioned know how (said neighbours are retired and from a generation that grew up with making as a way of life – so much to learn from them!) Hardly a month goes by without one or other of them knocking on our door handing over a bowl/bag/plate/bucket of something to eat/plant/cook.

Most recently it was quinces from the neighbours to the north and olives from the neighbours to the south.

I love quinces. They make me think of starched white linen, garden benches and strolls on warm afternoons. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because they seem like an old fashioned fruit – something that requires a bit of work, a bit of know-how, a bit of commitment to really be appreciated – and the sort of thing doesn’t fit with the convenience and perfectly waxed uniformity of modern supermarket fruit sections.

quinces

And perhaps that’s why they are one of those fruits that kind of dwell below the radar (like loquats and feijoas). While they get a bit of press among gourmet cooks and cheese lovers as quince paste, I doubt if many people would know what they look like. I tried to eat one raw like an apple once…not a particularly enjoyable experience. But in their cooked state, as quince jelly, quince honey, quince crumble, quince and chocolate cake, poached quince with spices, (I’ve even found a recipe for quince and lamb stew. That one I haven’t been inspired to try…yet) they are a treat. Their hard yellow flesh transforms to a glorious red-gold hue, and the aroma is luxurious.

So anyway, last week I had some cherished friends, who are also in my neighbourhood, over for a quince paste making day.

Sadly for this blog I was fully engaged in our time together and didn’t think to take photos. But needless to say there was lots of sugar, stirring and laughter involved. Unfortunately we didn’t quite cook it long enough, so it’s rather more sticky than is ideal. But it’s delicious none the less.

Quince paste

Here’s the recipe:

1. Take a quantity of quinces (let’s say 8-10), wash them with a veggie brush or soft scourer to remove the fuzz, then quarter and core them.

2. Place them in a large saucepan with the juice of a lemon and a cup of water.

3. Cook them until they are soft.

4. Drain them and pass them through a colander so they get mashed up without the skins and any chunky bits, then pass that pulp through a very fine sieve.
This is where the commitment starts to enter the process – this part can be tedious and time-consuming. Best to have friends around to help out and pass the time of day with.

5. Weigh the resulting pulp, then return it to the saucepan with an equal quantity of sugar (what did I say about the dentist…)

6. Slowly bring to the boil and and cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn. The paste is ready when you drag your spoon through the pot and there is a clean line left through the thick mixture. And this is where you commitment is really challenged and the measure of  your friends determined – this can take up to 2 hours.

7. Once cooked, pour into a greased, perhaps cling-film lined tin/tray and leave to set – overnight or so.

8. Then cut into what ever shape you like, buy a gorgeously ripe brie and stuff yourself silly!

It makes great gifts and the rest can be stored wrapped in baking paper/cling film in the fridge for months.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Now if that’s too much hassle, there’s a much simpler recipe for an equally delicious quince indulgence: quince honey (basically quince jam).

Very similar process: follow steps 1-3 as above, but then at the time-consuming part we diverge.

4. Drain the quinces and pass through a colander so they get mashed up without the skins and any chunky bits.

5. Weigh the resulting mush, then return it to the saucepan with an equal quantity of sugar.

6. Slowly bring to the boil and and cook over a medium heat, stirring very often. Like with any other jam, check after a while (45 mins) to see if it sets on a cold saucer in the fridge. Keep cooking and stirring until it does.

7. Pour into sterilised* jars, seal and store.

See, much simpler!

I just LOVE this on toast.

photo-1

*[How to sterilise a jar and get a seal? A few options: one is to rinse them in boiling water just before you use them; another is to put all the full jars into a stock pot, cover with water and bring to the boil until they seal; another is to simply put the hot jam in and then turn the jars upside down until they ‘pop’; and another method involves the oven and I don’t know about that one. I use a combination of the first three and usually all my jars seal.]


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