This year the quince tree lived up to its name of Meech's Prolific and produced over 300 fruit. After distributing just over half of them to friends and neighbours, I started reducing 150 quinces into goodies for the preserves and drinks cupboard. Over the next couple of months, it became something of a challenge to see how many different ways I could use the fruits.
You cannot eat a quince raw: it's as hard as a cricket ball and probably about as tasty. But cooked, gently in syrup, or wine, or roasted long and slow in the oven, it quickly softens. With the addition of sugar becomes meltingly sweet, with a flavour something like a floral apple with a hint of apricot. Cooking with sugar also transforms the colour of the flesh from creamy ivory to warm pink, then amber, and finally, if cooked for long enough, russet red.
In the picture above, the quincely foodstuffs are as follows, from left to right:
- Quince jelly, an old favourite, made by boiling up chopped quinces with water and little lemon juice and zest, then adding the resulting strained juice to sugar, and boiling until the setting point is reached.
- Spiced quince chutney. This was a my second attempt at making a quince chutney. The first, made with lemon juice and cardamom, tasted light and citrus-y (unseasonally summery rather than autumnal), but once jarred, had the unfortunate look (and texture) of Pedigree Chum. This new and much more successful version was made using a recipe from Radio New Zealand. Worked just as well this side of the world.
- Quince cheese, or membrillo, which uses the pulp left behind from making quince jelly, above, pureed and boiled up with industrial amounts of sugar for a couple of hours or until the fruit is almost mahogany in colour. Delicious with cheese, or, if you're my son, cut into cubes and eaten like sweets.
- Quince liqueur, in the tall jars at the back, or at least it will be once the fruit has steeped in the vodka for about six months.
- Whole quinces in brandy, also at the back, with quinces in white wine and vanilla syrup at the front.
- Quince vinegar, on the far right, a slightly sweetened vinegar which makes a light and frsh salad dressing.