Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Best Things You Probably Aren't Eating Yet: Quince

Quince.  It's a great scrabble word.  Also handy for crosswords and alphabet games.  And, in addition to all of that, it's actually a pretty decent fruit as well!

Quince is not easy to find, but even if you do, you might simply pass it by.  It looks like a lumpy pear, or a weird yellow apple.  I happened to spot them in the "exotics" section of the produce area at our grocery store the other day, and I may have freaked a few other shoppers out with my yelp of excitement.  I wasn't sure what exactly I was going to do with them, but I knew that I had just come across a quince recipe a few days earlier, so I sniffed the quince, fell in love, and scooped up 4.



Turns out, the recipe I couldn't quite remember came from My Berlin Kitchen, a great book I had checked out from the library.  The author, Luisa Weiss, has a fantastic foodie blog over at www.thewednesdaychef.com.  It's definitely worth a look, or maybe a few hours of lost time reading through her delicious memoirs.  Anyhow, the recipe was for slow roasted quince.  I was all in on this one.

Quince are tart and firm, and not very edible raw.  They have a lot of pectin, and are great in jellies or jams.  Their smell is gorgeous, almost floral.  If they made a quince scented perfume, I would bathe in it.  Quince are much more popular in Europe than they are here in the States.

I've been on an edible landscaping kick lately.  I've planted a peach tree, a cherry tree, a fig tree, several red and black raspberry bushes, gooseberries, rhubarb, and sweet woodruff around my house.  I've been scheming for some hazelnut bushes as well, and now I've added a quince tree to my dream list.  It may be a hard sell to my hubby, because we don't have a huge yard.  I just picture it as my own little Eden someday.

Back to the recipe.  This one takes the low and slow approach to make the quince tender and flavorful.  A lot of hands-off time.  And, word of warning, quince are hard to cut.  I used my sharpest knife, which cuts through meat like butter, and it still took most of my strength...which scared me, because if that sucker slips, I loose body parts.

The original recipe has you peel, half, and core the quince, saving the scraps to the side.  Peeling went well.

Halving, okay.  Coring...I hit red alert level on the cutting myself potential.  So I changed it up a bit.  I halved the halves and cut at an angle to take the cores out of each quarter.

After the quince is prepped, you take 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 a cinnamon stick (or 2 cloves), and the juice of a lemon and combine it over low heat in a shallow baking dish on the stovetop.

Heat the oven to 250 degrees while you're working on the syrup.  Once the sugar has dissolved into the liquid, place the quince in a single layer (I did my best.) in the dish.

Then cover it with the scraps of quince that you saved.  This is supposed to keep it moist.

Cover it with aluminum foil, and pop in the 250 degree oven for 5 hours.

When you take it out, it will be nice and rosy.  Throw away the scraps from the top.  Take the quince out and, if you're not using them right away, put them in a lidded container for later.  Strain the syrup (or don't...I got lazy and didn't), and use it to drizzle on top.

You can eat this warm or cold, as a dessert or part of a snack or breakfast.  It has a tartness to it that hits the back of your tongue, but serving it with something creamy, like whipped cream, yogurt, or ice cream, provides a nice foil to that.  Plus, it's just gorgeous to look at.  It's like magic, how it goes from being an ordinary beige fruit into a deep, almost flesh-like red.

And the verdict from the household?  Positive reviews all around.  Even Mr. Picky enjoyed it.  How many 4-year-olds do you know that will say they have tried and liked quince?  I don't know many 34-year-olds that can say that!