Tuesday 21 December 2010

To Quince or not to Quince

The French name for the quince is the coing. Tim reckons this is the sound made by a ripe quince hitting the roof of your car. A quince tree is a cognassier. We haven't yet decided whether or not to plant a cognassier. The tree resembles an apple tree, but with larger, scented flowers, and need no pollinator. A ripe quince is a beautiful yellow furry thing like a young rugby ball. But once the tree really gets going, it produces so much fruit you can't give them away (rather like walnuts) so if your neighbour has quinces, they'll be pleased for you to take some off your hands.

An alternative is a chaenomeles or Japanese quince, a decorative shrub happiest leaning against a sunny wall where it will be covered in scarlet blossom and then mini-quinces. If all you want is a few jars of quince jelly every year, Chaenomeles is ideal.

Crimson red poached quinces [we'll try the lemons too!]

On the other hand, quinces make a whole range of delicious puds. Raw, the fruit is inedible! The following recipe by Lucas Hallweg was taken from the Sunday Times of December 16 2007 and recommends an alternative to Christmas Pud - just as rich and luxurious, but not as stodgy. I've halved his quantities so this recipe serves 4.

2 medium or one large quince
Juice of half a lemon
The other lemon half, halved again
300g sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 clove
1 bayleaf

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.
Put some water into a bowl with the lemon juice.
Peel and quarter the quinces, or cut the large quince into eight. Drop the pieces into the lemon juice as they will go brown almost instantly.
Put the sugar and half a litre of water into a lidded ovenproof dish large enough to take all the quince pieces in one layer. Add the spices, bay leaf and lemon quarters and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Drop in the quince pieces, bring them to the boil, put on the lid and put the dish in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, turning half way through, until the fruit is soft and deep pink. The liquid will be a rich crimson.
Serve cold with crème fraiche and some of the syrup poured over. We served ours with meringue from the local bakery, and crème crue from La Grande Borde. I didn't say it was a low calorie alternative to Christmas pud!

There is lots of luscious syrup left - follow this link to see Lucas Hallweg's suggestions for using it up!
[Update: 30/11/2013... you now have to pay to access the above link... unless you are already a paid subscriber to The Times or The Sunday Times]


Susan said...

I love quinces. I think I will plant one. Do you leave a quince or two on top of the wardrobe to scent the bedroom? Several French people have told me their grandmothers always did this.

Pollygarter said...

What a lovely idea. They smell heavenly, and it really grabs you. I remember a row of Japanese quinces down hill from Dewsbury station, and my nose kept going "niff niff"!

Niall & Antoinette said...

Just found your recipe for quinces. Will give it a go--it sounds lovely. Making quince jelly is such a palaver and I have a few fruits in the bowl. We've tried to rescue an elderly quince tree--have to wait until spring to see if it is doing ok.