Quinces. They are one of those autumn fruits which are not easy to handle, but well worth the effort to try. These are particularly special because of how I came by them.
I had my sister visiting from Melbourne recently and we took the opportunity to indulge our passion for food by trying out one of my local farmers markets (Kelvin Grove Village for any Brisbane locals). It was a winner, and will probably be my new favourite place to go on a Saturday, when I’m not working. But I digress…. In our wandering I spotted an apple farmer selling quinces. I insisted we go back to buy some once we’d had our coffee and finished exploring as I happen to love quinces. By the time we got there it was towards the end of the day. So imagine our surprise, when we was working out which ones to buy, and he took the whole lot and placed them into a bag as if to weigh them up. I wasn’t unhappy to do this and asked how much? As we opened our purses he walked away, waving us off, not taking our money, stating, “they’re the last of the season, no more quinces this year so enjoy them”.
Well enjoy them I will and send good karma back to that lovely man. I love farmers markets for this very reason, not just because the produce is cheaper, better quality and hopefully local, but because you get to connect to the characters who give your food stories, who explain what you are buying, and share the love of food as much, sometimes more than you do. Food happiness to the core!
So what to do with this enormous bag of quinces? Who else would I turn to but my favourite Aussie Food Goddess, Stephanie Alexander? The following recipe is a variation on her recipe in the Cooks Companion on how to poach quinces.
- approx 3 kg quinces
- 2.5L water
- 1.5kg caster sugar
- 1 split vanilla pod
- 2 cinnamon quills
- rind 1 lemon
- juice 1 lemon
Pre-heat your oven to approx 150c.
Dissolve the sugar in the water over a very low heat on your stove top, along with the spices, lemon rind and juice. You will want to use a cast iron pot as you will be baking the quinces in the oven once they are prepared.
Peel, wash and core the quinces. They discolour quickly so add to the sugar syrup as you go. Take 4 or 5 of the cores, wrap in muslin or a clean open weave cloth and add to the pan.
Cover the pan and place in the middle of your oven for approx 6-8 hours. Discard the cores after baking before preserving or using to cook other delicious dishes. Below is a series of pictures of why you want to cook them so long as only prolonged cooking can create the alchemy necessary to turn these quite ugly, but gorgeous fruit, into a stunning ruby red colour fit for a queen.
The result of the hours cooking is a firm fruit, slightly caramalised and spiced. The flavour is rich and tending towards sweet and dry. I bottled my quinces in sterilised jars to preserve them, keeping the extra poaching liquid as well. The juice has been used as part of some delicious cocktails so far and the fruit is divine in a tart or in a crumble for some simple ideas. My first choice was for breakfast on porridge.
Stay tuned for more recipes using this amazing ruby-red beauties.
Happy Cooking, and Happy Eating,