Posts Tagged quince

Quite the quince

I admit I’m somewhat addicted to the concept of quinces, even if they are bastards to peel and the jams and jellies don’t always live up to their promise. It reminds me of childhood – we had a quince tree in the back yard which offered pretty pink flowers in spring and rock hard yellow fruit in fall. But they are hard to find over here, and the season is so short that I buy them when I see them, and work out what to do afterward.

This year’s I managed to snag a series of quinces from four different shopping ventures, but of course I had no clue what to cook. I made quince chutney a couple of  years ago, so wanted to try something sweet this year. Quince jelly was the event of the moment, although it was amber rather than deep, deep red, possibly because I didn’t boil the quinces for the length of time suggested in one of several internet recipes. It’s sweet rather than quince-like too. Almost too subtle.

Next up was poached quinces, and I admit it took me three attempts to get this one right. My first recipe said to pressure-cook the quinces for 30 minutes, which turned the yellow-beige fruit into a glorious shade of garnet red. But it also removed even the faintest hint of bite, which wasn’t really what was ordered. The taste was good — I threw in a generous couple of tablespoons of grated ginger for bite and the last couple of inches of a bottle of white wine. Texture sort of blah. Nothing like the pale pink chunky, grainy things my mother used to make.

From there I moved on to try a notch harder to recreate her sweet-sour taste,  although I used the pressure cook method (for 20 minutes). I added a cup of white vinegar to the poaching liquid and threw in five-spice for flavor and (too little) chilli powder for heat. But I should have upped the sugar to offset the vinegar, and used (milder) cider vinegar rather than white vinegar. It’s pleasant, and it’s working with the farro too, but it isn’t quite so nice.

Third attempt was the charm, simmered on the stove for about two hours until soft but not soggy. What it lacks in dark pinkness, it makes up for with taste.

Poached quince with vanilla and cider vinegar
6 quinces, peeled (with a potato peeler), cored and sliced into wedges
1 vanilla bean, split down the middle to remove the seeds
1 cup cider vinegar

Use a sharp knife and plenty of patience to chop the quince, and weigh the chopped up fruit to work out how much sugar to use. I had just over a kilo of fruit, so I used 150 grams of sugar. (Counting in metric makes it far easier to work out the percentages)

Add vinegar and sugar to a saucepan, and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Then add the quince, the vanilla (seeds and pod) and  water to almost cover.

Bring up to a simmer and simmer until the fruit is soft. The longer you cook it the pinker it gets, but also the mushier.

It’s glorious, served with farro, my breakfast of the moment.

As for the farro, I flirted with it earlier this year, and then forgot about it. But I’ve cooked up four batches so far this fall, two with varying amounts of coconut milk, one with three parts water to one of milk and one of milk and water in equal parts, and (mixed with the quince). It’s a wonderful start to the day.

Breakfast farro
1 cup farro (a wheat like grain that’s supposed to be high in protein)
4 cups liquid (all water, or water and coconut milk, or water and milk)
A little salt

If I remember I soak this overnight (or longer) before I start cooking it, and then I boil this up 2 or three times, allowing it to simmer for a few minutes before switching off the stove and putting a lid on the pan to keep the heat in. It’s cooked once the moisture is mostly absorbed and the grains have cracked — you can’t really overcook this one. Store in the fridge in a closed container and use as needed. A cup of cooked-up farro seems to do 5-6 portions of breakfast, depending on how hungry I feel when I wake up.

I’m serving this one with a generous portion of poached quinces, or stewed fruit (or maybe jam), microwaved for a minute or two to heat it up. The addition of a splash of milk, cream or buttermilk is optional but rather nice. Bananas go well with it too.

Enjoy the fact that you won’t be hungry until almost lunchtime.

Edit: to speed up the cooking time, you can presoak the grain and then whiz them up in the food processor for a few seconds to crack them a little, before you start the boiling/cooling process. They still take a while to cook, but they become a little bit more like porridge and a little bit less like grain. It’s all a question of taste.

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If at first you don’t succeed…

Well, it’s not that we didn’t succeed last week, with a quince-focused canning bonanza. But bringing four jars back to Canada from New Jersey really didn’t quite seem like the winter jamming session I was looking for. So two of us took advantage of the California quinces in Toronto shops to try two recipes again. The quince ones, of course.

Quinces really are curious fruit, like an apple/pear cross with a fuzzy peach like coating that rubs off to reveal a shiny golden skin. The fruit itself is almost inedible raw,  and hard as hell to peel and core. Recommendations are a potato peeler to get the skin off, a large and heavy knife to quarter them and a melon baller to remove the stone-hard cores. Two people help as well. You can get quite a quince production line going.

After a quick taste test of last week’s adventure, we started with a variant of the quince juniper chutney, although we speeded things up by chopping everything in the food processor, and then using kitchen scissors to snip the large bits of onion that got left behind.  We added ginger for an extra kick, and I managed to screw up the measurements by forgetting how much I had weighed and then adding more vinegar by mistake. Here’s a guesstimate of what we did, adapted from “My Mum’s Quince Chutney”.

Quince juniper chutney (makes 8-9 250-gram jars)

2 kg quinces, peeled and cored, and grated in food processor
2 large onions, grated in food processor
2-1/2 cups of sugar
2 cups of white vinegar, 1 cup of cider vinegar
3-teaspoons of juniper berries lightly crushed
1-1/2-teaspoon salt
A 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
Lots of fresh ground black pepper

Put all ingredients in a preserving kettle and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about two hours until it’s golden and almost boiled into a puree. (The recipe says deep pink and loose jam. I guess I used a different type of quince.) Stir regularly, to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Bottle in sterilized jars. Water bath 10 minutes.

It tastes pretty good right now. I think it will be even better in a couple of weeks, after the flavors meld together.

From there we moved on to the quince cranberry concoction from last week, again with a few tweaks, including a a shift toward more quince and less cranberry, more ginger and a notch less sugar. We added a spoonful of Chinese five-spice (which turned out to be a seriously inspired choice) and cooked it a lot less.

Quince cranberry jam (12 jars)

2 pounds fresh cranberries
2 pounds quince, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
8 ounces candied ginger, sliced very thin
1 tsp Chinese five-spice
4-1/2 cups sugar
5 cups water

Place sugar and water in a non-reactive pan and heat on low until sugar is dissolved, turn up heat and bring to the boil.
Add quince and five-spice and bring to the boil again. lower heat and simmer for a good hour until quince darkens and gets soft and syrup begins to thicken a little.

Add ginger slices and cranberries, bring back to the boil, continue boiling on medium-high until the cranberries pop and soften. Cook until it’s set — it took about 10 minutes.

Fill sterilized jars and water bath for 10 minutes.

The color is glorious, even more red than in the picture, with golden chunks of quince showing through the red. Canning buddy (and photographer) took half the jars, absent canning buddy gets half of the other half, which leaves one to give away and two for me. I can hardly wait.

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It started with a flat of figs

It all started with a flat of figs, a steal at $5.99 from a not-really farmers’ market somewhere outside Princeton, New Jersey.

It ended with 26 jars of five different concoctions, and a definite challenge to Newark’s Airport Security when I head back to the Great White North with four of them tomorrow. Checked luggage time for sure.

But in between times, it really was sort of fun.

The excuse was a weekend visit to the friend who invented canning (well, in my book at least), and while we did plan to get out for a long walk in the winter sunshine today, somehow we never got that far.

So let’s see what we did:

Apple fig chutney

I’ve coveted this chutney ever since I bought a slim recipe book from Australia’s Women’s Weekly magazine a few years back, but fresh figs have always been sold at such a silly price that I never acted on the desire. But at the New Jersey price, what did we have to lose? It’s a basic chutney recipe — take fruit, vinegar, sugar, spices and simmer til thick — but this one seemed good straight out of the pan, while chutneys normally have to mellow for a month or so.  We ate it with cold roast lamb. It would go equally well with cheese, or sausages or anything else that’s going.

Fig and apple chutney

12 medium figs, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 medium apples, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup dry white wine
*1 cup sultanas
*1/4 cup tomato paste
*1 clove garlic
*2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine ingredients and simmer until thick. Bottle.

You can’t get easier than that.

*We omitted the sultanas, and didn’t miss them at all. We also omitted the mustard seeds, because we didn’t have any and the garlic, because we forgot it, and we substituted home-made crushed tomatoes for tomato puree.

Quince juniper chutney

Next up was a quince chutney, which is all part of my campaign to persuade canning buddy to plant a quince tree in her extensive back yard. The internet pointed to something called my mum’s quince chutney, which sounded as though it ought to be good. First there’s the use of ‘mum’ instead of ‘mom’ which appeals to my Brit-roots, and then there’s the liberal use of juniper berries, which add an earthy bitterness to things like gin (and chutneys).  Ours is golden rather than pink, but perhaps that’s because the quinces were green rather than golden. It’s pretty mild right now. Maybe an extra kick next time. Or maybe it just needs to mellow.

Interesting sidenote here. A BlackBerry dictionary doesn’t recognize the word “quince.” I tried.

The canning game continued today, after a diversion to Trader Joes and the shopping mall, where I came home with a lined, wool Anne Klein jacket for $30 (huh?).

Lime pickle

This is another Australian Women’s weekly recipe. I have no clue how it tastes, because I was on the phone failing to buy a house for the crucial finishing moment so didn’t even get to lick the pan. But it was a pretty straightforward mix of spices, vinegar, limes and chili, boiled for 20 eye watering minutes and then canned.

Persian grapefruit marmalade

A scarily easy venture, if you ignore the messy start of peeling and depulping big pink-fleshed grapefruit and boiling the peel up three times to lose some of the bitterness. We got four coral red jars from three rather small grapefruit and a couple of cups of sugar. Easy and very, very nice.

Quince cranberry jam

Back to Tigress in a Jam, perhaps my favorite blogging canner for this one, and again it was faster than the recipe says it is. In fact it just about burned while we were thinking about other things, and it’s almost purple rather than orange red. I will double the ginger next time, and maybe cut the sugar just a notch. And I will also watch things more carefully. Burnt-on jam really isn’t the easiest thing in the world to clean.

It’s in the top right of the picture, a deep, deep cherry red.To round things off, we made a supermoist three-ginger cake, which used root ginger, crystallized ginger and powdered ginger, along with pulped up overripe pears.

Did I ever mention how much I like ginger?

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