Quinces: as eaten by the Owl and the Pussycat, given as a wedding gift by the Ancient Greeks and even rumoured to be the fruit that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. For a fruit that’s incredibly sour and rock hard when raw, quinces are surprisingly popular and have been for hundreds of years.
They are thought to have long preceded apples – and are related to both apples and pears. Even the word ‘marmalade’ (originally meaning quince jam) comes from ‘marmelo’, the Portuguese word for quince. They have featured in paintings by Caravaggio and Van Gogh, and there are many old quince recipes, including Sir Hugh Platt’s ‘Quidini of Quinces’ (a quiddany is a translucent quince paste made with sugar and rosewater) which is from the brilliantly titled book from 1600, ‘Delights for Ladies’!
My kitchen is currently perfumed with that sweet smell that is unique to the quince; part honey, part rose and with a slight citrus tang. Last week we collected a bucketful from the bushes in the front garden, and there are still many more clinging to the branches.
What we’ve collected are not technically true quinces – they don’t have the downy fluff or pear-like shape of Cydonia oblonga. These are Japanese Quinces (Chaelenomeles Japonica). During the spring and early summer the bushes are covered with peach flowers that almost verge on neon coral at times. Leaning against the warm brick wall, they seem very happy with their growing spot – and knowing the history of the garden, may well have grown there for the past 50 years.
But now what to do with my bounty? I’ve previously made Quince Jelly (pictured) which works well with cheeses or roast pork and lamb, but with many jars of jelly left, I need to choose a different recipe this year. I’ve always been tempted to make a Spanish membrillo as we are big cheese fans in our house so I know it would get eaten up. Sarah Raven’s Windfall Apple and Quince Cake looks very tempting, as does Nigel Slater’s Christmas Pudding recipe which contains grated quince. I’ve even found a quince jam base cocktail called Old Quincey!
Do you have any favourite quince recipes? I’d love some inspiration to help me use up my quince glut!
PS. Also see Jude’s post about Quinces…
Thanks for reading,