Friday, December 29, 2006


Quince in Syrup (and ramblings on quince not being a "nana fruit")

  I had intended on making another quince tart before the season was over, as it is now, but it just seems like the best way to do is by following Tamasin Day-Lewis' recipe in Simply the Best. I say this because getting it the way I wanted, more similar to the Dapple-Dandy Pluot Tart I made in August this year, is really only best for true stone fruit. Quince just require more work and the less handling of them, the better. So, I go on record, for failing to reify my imagined "ultimate quince tart". Having said that, and let this be a lesson to anyone who does not cook or bake for fear of not pulling it off, exploration is a hands-on way of learning, a necessity really, in the kitchen. I feel that I have explored the quince's options, and I am now even better able to spot the best ones at the farmers' market. So "failure", really, is only subjective in this sense and not entirely negative. But I turn with tail between the legs to Tamasin Day-Lewis - again - for her version of Quince in Syrup. This particular recipe is from her educational, hunger-inducing, and wide-reaching tome, Tamasin's Kitchen Bible.

My father all but cracked up laughing when I told him that I wanted to make this recipe. Why is it that people think quince is a nana's fruit? I suspect it has something to do with the Victorians leaving quince to scent linen cupboards, but this is originally, as far as I know, a Central Asian/Middle Eastern fruit, and the uses for it in jellies and as a sweet accent in savoury dishes are astounding (Central Asian and Middle Eastern dishes often act as harmonious offerings of the tart and sweet, the savoury and spicy - a dramatic study of balance). A nana fruit this is not. One does not or should not eat a quince directly off the tree, for it is incredibly hard and astringent. However, of the family of pears and apples it is, so like these fruit, it is best (in my opinion) cooked in any manner. It is once warmed through that the gorgeous tropical and floral aroma of the quince is released and casts spellbound gazes on all those whose olfactory organs are even minimally functioning.

Quince in Syrup
(from Tamasin Day-Lewis' Tamasin's Kitchen Bible)

juice of 1/2 lemon
8oz (225g) unrefined sugar
2lb (900g) quince (either 4 small or two really large ones) that have had the down scrubbed off them, halved (do not remove pips or stone) and sitting in acidulated water

1) Fill a pan with 1 3/4 pints (1 litre) boiling water and add lemon juice and sugar.
2) Add quince cut side down and simmer until tender (add more water as you go to keep them covered), anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes. Do not, however, let the fruit fall apart.
3) When tender, remove quince, and once cool enough to handle, cut out the cores and put them back in the pan.
4) Reduce the syrup by simmering.
5) Return quince to simmering liquid and cool until syrup becomes thick and reddish, approximately 75 minutes.
6) Arrange quice halves cut side up on a serving plate and pour syrup on top (it will turn into a jelly as it cools).

I do not dispute that this dessert takes a while before you can eat it, but it is worth it. Besides, you get to inhale that gorgeous aroma the entire time, and that cannot be bettered. Alas, the quince season seems to have ended here, so this will be my last quince entry for a while.
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Shaun - I made roasted quince jam last autumn, but was very disappointed that it didn't turn into bright, deep red, as I saw it on other blogs. I'm pleased to see that yours looks the same colour as mine:)
Pille - Once the quince season ended, I read LOADS about this most gorgeous fruit. It seems that one has to poach the quince for around 2.5 hours for them to be perfectly poached and to have a red hue. The 75 mins I left them for was not enough, but I was so hungry on account of the gorgeous aroma. They were soft enough, too.
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