Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Quantities of Quinces

I love the smell of quinces - its quite insidious how it seeps into everything, the car now smells like Quinces, evidence of our magnificent haul from the Easter weekend in Orange.
Not the most beautiful fruit (but definitely one of the most fragrant!)- Quinces!
We always seemed to get out hands on these beautiful fruits growing up- I can't remember who in the neighbourhood had a tree, but it only takes one of these delightfully prolific plants to keep everyone well stocked.
My parents have two trees - the branches are so weighed down with fruit that they rest on the ground and when you pick the fruit they spring gratefully back up!
Even with mums prolific preserving, and the local wildlife there is more than enough quinces for everyone.

As those who have been tricked into eating these raw- they are tongue-curlingly rich in tannins (and hard!), whilst some varieties have been bred so you can eat them raw ( or when they are very very ripe), the traditional varieties are useless unless cooked.
Qunices are known as Cydonia oblonga  with the rather fitting species name (oblonga) being a testament to is knobbly and odd shape.
In the cooking process the phenolic chemicals in the flesh (responsible for the astringency, e.g tannins) break down into subunits which can easily form anthocyanins in the presence of oxygen.  Its these anthocyanin compounds that given the rosy to deep red colour typical of cooked quinces.  (Read here for more). Due to the nature of anthocyanins, to get a deeper red colour a bit of acid can be added to lower the pH (However some cultivars produce a deeper red than others - so don't worry if yours are pinker rather than red).

Quince paste has been made throughout history (known as membrillo in spain!), its probably accompanying a cheese platter that most people have been exposed to Quinces, its ridiculously easy to make (and much cheaper than buying it!).
Its also commonly stewed (delicious for breakfast, dessert, in cakes - anytime or place really!). My mum stews quinces (in a light syrup) with vanilla and cardamon- delicious!
The internet has a great variety of recipes using quinces - I'll test out a couple over the next few weeks!
Do you have any recipes using quinces?

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