Friday, October 18, 2013

harvest 2013: quince jam

back when we made that weekend escape to Index, and I picked all that quince, I had no idea how much time I'd spend peeling, coring, and cooking it down. Okay, maybe I had some idea. But I was so excited about free quince that I accepted the challenge.

I didn't grow up eating quince, so it's still kind of a new flavor for me - and Cass, too. The last time I cooked quince, we tried it poached in a lemony white wine syrup. We hated it. Threw it out. Didn't help that I hadn't cooked it long enough.

This time, I tried something different; when talking about quince one day with some Arab friends, they burst into exclamations. For one thing, my friends didn't know what the English word for the fruit was (and since I've encountered relatively few people who even know what it is, I can understand why they hadn't yet had the opportunity to learn this word). My friends were also excited to share memories of quince slices in syrup, made with rosewater and cardamom. So, when I came across Izita's recipe for quince preserves on Tumeric and Saffron, her Persian cooking blog, I figured, fair enough, let's do this.

Since I wasn't sure of the variety of my quince, and therefor couldn't predict whether they'd hold up to cooking in syrup, I just cooked my quince wedges down in water and lemon juice until they were softened, then blended them into a thick puree in the food processor. I returned them to the pan and started adding sugar, rosewater, and cardamom to taste - a little bit at a time at first, but then I got more and more adventurous as my confidence grew.

The end result is a thick jam, almost a paste. The rosewater and cardamom give it just the right oomph, bringing out the beautiful pineapple-like floral quality of the quince itself. I gave Cass a spoonful right out of the pan and he raised his eyebrows in approval. Though it's still a new flavor to us both, this time we won't be throwing it out. I have a few ideas about how I'll use this. My grandmother used to make a pineapple cream cheese pie; it was a 30s-era recipe with a tangy pineapple base layered under a mix of cream cheese and milk and eggs. I used to request it every year in lieu of a birthday cake. I think the quince will lend itself well to something similar, paired with creamy or custardy layers. It might also be really good flavouring to add to a panna cotta, now that I think of it. I'd also like to give this quince curd brulee tart recipe from British Larder a go, and if I find I still have a lot left over, I might pour some into an oiled or parchment-lined pan and dry it in the oven for a day or two, and see if I can't produce something like membrillo at the end. Lots of options! I'll be sure to share the successes.

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