October is almost here, and while the whole world is getting ready for pumpkin season, the Mediterraneans harvest an ancient treasure called quince. For those of you who don’t know it, quince is a fall fruit that belongs in the same family with apples and pears but it’s similarities with those fruits ends there. Mystique, highly aromatic with golden yellow colour, quinces are a popular cooking ingredient in Ancient Greek and Roman cuisine over the millennia. It is so highly praised that in Greek Mythology it is associated with Aphrodite, goddess of love, and often referred as golden apple. Despite its popularity, when raw, quinces are surprisingly sour and inedibly tannic. So why even bother with these fruits you can’t even eat? That’s where the surprise comes in…
Quinces are used to make exquisite marmalade (the word marmalade comes from the Portuguese word for quince, marmelada) , spoon sweets, and jellies (they have a lot of natural pectin), pies or as additions to apple pies, and are delicious cooked with meats. In Greece we have favorite pork dishes with quince, and it’s also good with lamb, turkey, and duck. Quinces can also be baked, much the same as apples. It is almost unbelievable how delicious this knobby with extremely tough and oddly spongy flesh fruit can be once cooked.
Having a quince tree in your garden is more than you will ever need as a family because it is one of the most productive trees. In my parent’s garden there are 3 over productive quince trees so we had plenty of resources to experiment and learn how to treat this controversial fruit and make the best out of it. Four are our favorite family recipes and two of them will be presented today, Spicy Baked Quince and Quince Paste.
Spicy Baked Quince
The easiest way to prepare quinces is by baking them with sugar and spices and serve them warm or cold with some whipped cream or Greek yogurt. It is one of the best choices for dessert after a heavy winter meal. Healthy, easy to make, delicious and seductively aromatic…what more you can ask from a dessert?
- 4 large quinces
- 1 cup. tea brown sugar
- 750 ml red wine
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 4-5 cloves pins
- 3-4 cardamon seeds
- 1 vanilla stick
- whipped cream or frozen yogurt or vanilla ice cream to serve with (optional).
- Wash the quinces and wipe well. Cut in half and carefully remove only the heart with stones. Put them in a pan crowded and in a pot heat the red wine with all the spices
- Sprinkle the quinces with sugar and pour the hot spiced wine. Cover the pan with a lid or foil and bake at 200 ° C in a well preheated oven for about 40 minutes until the quinces soften slightly.
- Uncover the pan with a spoon pour the quinces with the syrup. Continue baking, uncovered, for about 30 more. Let cool a bit before serving.
- Serve on a plate half quince and fill with cream. Drizzle with a little syrup and sprinkle with pistachios.
Quince paste is one of the loveliest natural Greek sweets. This is one of the oldest recipes, calling for honey instead of sugar (or a mix of both). The recipe calls for few ingredients, and is easy to make, but does require constant attention while boiling. Once you make it you can store it and preserve it for several months out of your fridge. It really is a health bomb that will cover all your sudden sugar cravings with the most natural and healthy way.
- 7 to 8 medium size quinces
- good quality honey * or/and brown sugar
- 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 cinnamon stick
- roasted sesame seeds to cover the paste bars (optional)
- 1/2 cup of blanched almond halves (optional)
- FOR STORING
- baking parchment paper
- airtight plastic container(s)
- 3-4 bay leaves
*The amount of honey used will be equal to the weight of the pureed quince pulp. The better the quality of the honey, the better the result. I recommend you to use both honey and brown sugar, for example for every 3 cups of pureed quince pulp use 2 cups honey and 1 cup sugar.
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Remove quince stems, and wipe to remove all external debris. In a baking pan, bake the whole quinces at 180°C for about 2 hours, until soft (test with a fork).
- When cool enough to handle, remove and discard peel, seeds, and any other tough fibrous material. Puree the pulp in the blender or food mill and weigh/measure.
- Measure out a quantity of honey equal in the weight to the pureed pulp.
- In a wide shallow pot(deep metal, skillet or other), combine quince pulp, honey, and nutmeg, cinnamon and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously to prevent from creating foam. *If the mixture foams up even with constant stirring, lower heat to a slow boil and continue.
- Continue to cook and stir until volume reduces, and the color darkens to orangey-red, and the jelly pulls away cleanly from the sides of the pan.
- Just before turning off the heat, stir in the blanched almonds.
- Moisten a large metal pan (baking or roasting) with some cold brandy and turn the jelly out into the pan, spreading out evenly, and allow to cool completely.
- To store, cut the jelly into candy-sized pieces, coat them with roasted sesame seeds (optional) and transfer to airtight plastic container(s), using baking parchment between layers, and add bay leaves throughout.
The jellies will keep, stored this way unrefrigerated, for several months
Next time you see quinces in your local grocery store give them a chance to enchant you with their mystique-lemony aromas. Take a few back home and try one of these recipes, and I am sure you are going to love it so much that it will become a family favorite.
Till next time…
featured image via magyreuontas.blogspot