The Quince holds wonderful childhood memories for me. I can remember my first mouthful of the astringent fruit sprinkled liberally with salt – that was the way my father taught me to eat them and I have eaten them this way ever since, except of course when I cook them.
I love being in the markets of Morocco when quinces are in season. These beautiful, golden yellow ripe fruits are piled high and aromatic, their beautiful perfume filling the air. I can hardly pull myself away from their fragrance when I am in the vicinity.
This is not a fruit many people know of, or know what to do with, for that matter. They are members of the Rose family and are related to apples and pears.
Before cooking this lovely autumn fruit is hard, acidic, and astringent, but once the heat gets to them, they turn shades of pink or red, and taste heavenly. They are great for making marmalade and jellies to accompany roasted and grilled meats like pork, turkey, lamb, game birds, and cheese. Membrillo, which is a paste made from quinces, is a popular accompaniment to cheese in Spain.
Baked quinces are quite delicious and when used in jam making, set beautifully because they are high in pectin.
I just adore making a Lamb Tagine with quinces and prunes.
When buying a quince always select fruit that is firm with smooth skin. Slight marks on the skin do not affect the fruit within, however if the fruit is soft with deep bruising, it should not be bought.
Store your quinces at room temperature for up to a week, but after that store them in the fridge wrapped in paper towels. That should ensure that they’re good for at least a month. The Ancient Greeks associated the quince with fertility, and it is said that they played an important role in wedding celebrations where they were often offered as a gift.
It is said that they were even given to a new bride to chew to sweeten her breath before entering the bridal chamber.
She would also offer it to her groom. I like that, being on the same page and all. It beats garlic breath among newlyweds. One myth says that pregnant women who indulge their appetites with generous quantities of quinces will give birth to industrious and highly intelligent children.
Makes about 6 cups
- 1 kg of ripe fragrant quinces
- 4 cups of water
- 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 1/2 cups of sugar
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- 1 star anise
Wash and quarter the quinces, remove core and discard. Now grate the quinces coarsely, rinse, and drain. Place the water and grated quince in a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Now add the sugar ,cinnamon, cloves and star anise and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.
Add the lemon juice, cover, and continue to simmer about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the quince is done, the syrup will be thickened, and the fruit will be a lovely red colour.
Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Pour into hot, well sterilized jars and seal tightly. Spoon over cheese, meats and even ice cream.
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