Smelling somewhat like a cross between an apple and a pear the Quince was thought a cure-all in the 16th century diet similar to the apple.a.day mantra of four centuries later.
These days I eat this bulbous yellow fruit in the form of Quince paste where I love to eat it on a cracker with soft blue cheese. Here in Australia a small tub of Quince paste from a reputable company will cost around AUD$5-6.
Before our time families would've made this at home from the Autumn crop. Certainly few families bother with preserving fruit or making Jams (Jellies) these days however I decided to try my hand at making Quince paste to see whether it was worth the bother.
I found this recipe in Maggie Beer's book "Maggie's Harvest". It is Maggie's Quince paste which I buy for myself so this seemed a good place to start. The recipe is simple enough:
- 2kg Quinces, cored and chopped in quarters
- Lemon Juice
- Simmer the quinces (including the cores which are wrapped in a muslin bag or tea towel and placed in the water with everything else) until the quinces are soft and mushy.
- Take out the cores then process or smoosh the quinces until they form a pulp.
- Add sugar equal to the weight of the pulp plus some lemon juice.
- Then (and here's the bit I should've read before I started) "cook over low heat, stirring continuously for four hours".
Despite our shock at the 4 hour constant stirring it was fun for the kids and I to watch the Quinces change colour from honey yellow, through orange, watermelon pink and then to a deep Ruby red. To my surprise the paste turned out beautifully.
I would like to point out here that I am no gourmet cook. I cannot remember participating in any jam or preserve-making activities in my past.
I was so excited with the results I promptly wrapped them up and gave some away to my friends. That is the thing about making food - you might come over all neighbourly, and that's a good thing for all of us.
So, was it worth it? I wouldn't want to appear overly domestic but I loved creating deep ruby-red Quince Paste out of those bulbous yellow fruits and it was certainly an education for the kids to watch the fruit change colour. The quinces cost $8.20, the sugar $1.00 and the lemons $1.00. I was able to satisfy myself that all the ingredients were Australian and at 42cents per piece it cost a lot less than the $5 or more I would pay at the deli.
Mind you, four hours of stirring is not for everyone. But Quinces are only in season in Autumn so you only need put aside five hours a year. This is not the thing you cook after work with guests arriving for nibbles at 6pm. But if you do have some on hand it just might help your guests “...mightedly prevail against drunkenes”!