Friday, December 11, 2015

Quince - The Delightfully Unexpected Fruit

Have you ever tasted a Quince? 

Do you know what a quince is?

Last Spring, Emmet, an elderly man I know from one of the schools I substitute teach at brought in some homemade Quince Jelly to share with some of the staff and teachers.  At that time, I had never heard of quince. I had no idea what kind of fruit or vegetable it was. As a jelly maker and caner myself, I was curious to taste this jelly. What would I do with it?  The ladies in the office offered their jars of jelly to me because they know I can conjure up something to do with it other than offer it as a condiment for toast for my guest.

I decided to make a sauce out of it for my Stuffed Poached Pears that I like to offer my guest to begin their breakfast. I placed a couple of tablespoons of Quince Jelly in a saucepan with some orange juice and diced dried apricots. I poached my fresh  peeled and cored pears in the sauce until it simmered down to a thick syrupy consistency.  My stuffed Poached Pear with the Quince and Apricot sauce was a hit.

Stuffed Poached Pears with Quince Sauce
Last week, Emmet called to ask if I would like some recipes. He didn't tell me what the receipts were, but I immediately said yes, as I'm always looking for a new recipe to try on my guest. He told me that he and his wife would be going out to dinner at a restaurant nearby in a couple of days and would stop by to drop off the recipes.  Out of the clear blue he stopped by on Saturday evening. Thank goodness I was home. He got out of the car, handed me three sheets of paper with recipes on them. I still didn't know what the recipes were as I was being polite in greeting him and meeting his wife. He then pulled out of the trunk of his car a bag full of Quince.  I was elated that he was so thoughtful to think of me. The aroma was magnificent. As we stood there in the driveway on this chilly night he proceeded to explain to me the different methods of making quince jelly, quince jam, and quince honey.  Emmet knows that one of my favorite things to do is make homemade jams and jelly. Now I can add quince jelly and  honey to my offerings . I was SO excited! I didn't even know what a quince looked like until then.
Quince fruit

So what is a quince?

Quince is a fall fruit that grows like an apple or pear. They smell a little like a pear but more aromatic. A magnificent  aroma. The color is yellow like a Bartlett pear when ripe. It's not juicy like an apple when you cut into it. It's quite dry like a crab-apple with a yellowish flesh color inside, but even more fragrant. A raw quince taste a little pear-ish when you bite into it. It's not real sweet and not really palatable in its raw state and not usually eaten raw. Although, I read that it is eaten raw in other countries.

I let the fruit sit on my counter top for a couple of days until I could commit to the cooking process. The sweet pear-ish aroma was tantalizing and I knew it was time to get to work. When talking to Emmet the other night I decided right away that I wanted to not only make the jelly for my Stuffed Poached Pear dessert, I wanted to make the quince honey as well. These two went hand in hand with the cooking process. Nothing goes to waste, not even the skin.

Emmet suggested that I chop up the fruit in my food processor after cutting the fruit in fifths and coring it, keep the peel on. Once I had 6 cups of chopped fruit I placed it in a large soup pot with 6 cups of water. I brought that to a boil and simmered it for 15 minutes.

Quince Jelly
When my husband walked in the house that evening after work he followed his nose straight to the kitchen in pure delight asking what was that wonderful smell. Mmmm!

After the simmering process was complete I drained the fruit mixture through some cheesecloth until I had 6 cups of the liquid. My excitement rose as I was successful in extracting the right amount of this liquid gold to start my jelly process.  Adding my box of fruit pectin and bringing this mixture to a rolling boil that could not be stirred down I added my 7 cups of  pre-measured sugar all at once as per the recipe directions. I continued to stir until the mixture came to another rolling boil that could not be stirred down. After one minute I took the pan off the burner and began pouring my jelly into sterilized canning jars.

Licking the cooled spoon and the bottom of the pan I was in heaven. Oh my! Pure delight!  Click here for recipe.
Quince Honey

Making Quince Honey

The next morning I began the process for making the quince honey. Dumping the leftover pulp in my crock pot and stirring in 8 cups of sugar and slow cooking it on high for nearly 8 hours. The mixture had to be stirred every 15 -20 minutes until the pulp was reddish in color. This is a process you can't walk away from because it has to be stirred constantly. It kind of looked like dark red applesauce but thicker, and tastes very much like honey with a pear accent. The mixture yielded just over two - quart jars. The next morning I put some out on the dining table for the guests to try on their toast.  They raved about it and ate what was left in the jelly dish with the spoon after devouring it on their toast . They commented that I should serve it all of the time.Yes, success!

I love trying new recipes especially with underutilized fruits like quince and making something totally unexpected. I think I'll try quince in a pie next time. I hear its fabulous. Now, I really must get my own quince tree.