I love quince, there is something of the ancient, romantic and exotic about them that I can’t resist. I may mourn the end of summer but I love the first appearance of quince. Originally from the Asia they then spread to the Mediterranean where they captivated the Greeks and Romans with their perfumed taste and fragrant aroma. Apples weren’t really known in the ancient world so it may well have actually been a quince that tempted Eve. It has even been claimed that quince will ward off the evil eye. Leave a bowl of these yellow orbs on your kitchen table and they will perfume the air with their fragrant scent.
The love of quince even goes all the way back to the owl and the pussy cat in the 1800s. We all know they went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat but do you remember that they dined on slices of quince? Though not sure about matching them with mince!
Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring? Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married the next day
By the turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they are with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They dance by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
The Owl and the Pussy Cat, Edward Lear, 1871
Quince is a member of the rose family, tough skinned and almost inedible raw their flesh turns to the prettiest rosy hue when cooked. I like a slice of quince tart
, or quince jelly spread on toast and I think this quince in chai syrup
would be quite heavenly warmed and drizzled over vanilla ice cream. A favourite of mine is quince paste, or membrillo as it is called in Spain, where it is traditionally served with Manchego, a delicious Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk.
This recipe will make plenty of membrillo, I got 4 1/2 litre plastic containers and 2 small bowls, plastic containers not being camera ready!
Wash the quince and then roughly chop, no need to peel or core. Place the quince in a large saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Simmer gently for an hour or until the fruit is soft. Pass the quince through a sieve and measure the pulp. For every 600ml of pulp add 500g of sugar. Place everything in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring frequently, until it thick and a deep rosy hue. Test for setting point* and when set pour the paste in to a shallow based non stick baking tray or plastic containers. Leave the paste to set and then it can be stored in a cool dark place for several months.
*Have a couple of small plates in the fridge to cool. To test for setting point spoon a little paste onto the cold plate and let it cool for a moment. Run your finger through it and if it is ready you will leave a trail.
Perfect as part of Spanish tapas platter, enjoyed with friends over a few glasses of vino while soaking up some Autumn sunshine.