Monday, October 14, 2013

Making chardequince

A few years ago, I was sitting at fighter practice when a friend mentioned the fuzzy, hard, mystery fruit that one of their trees was growing. I just so happened to have been reading C. Anne Wilson's The Book of Marmalade, and thus could easily identify it as a quince. Before marmalade was made from oranges, it was made from the rather magical quince. The friends were kind enough to let me have the produce from their tree that year and since. I've had a lot of fun trying out some older recipes. They are moving next month though, so this will be the last year I get to play. That thought has made me sad enough that I've decided to plant my own quince tree. I'll have to wait a few years, but I know it will be worth it.

Quince aren't a popular fruit today, but medievally, they were known as the Queen of Fruit. They've been cultivated longer than apples. There are even legends that quince was the fruit that tempted Adam and Eve.
Full of tannins and pectin, quince don't get soft and juicy. They do get a beautiful floral aroma, however, and they smell amazing. They are a late fruit, not ripening until October and the first frosts. Cooking them is easy. Cutting them is not.

It takes a rather sharp paring knife. Much sharper than the poor neglected knives in my kitchen. I did have a sharpener in the back of the drawer, however, so that was easily remedied. The recipes I have for chadequince, the sweet and spicy quince paste I am making, calls for quartering the quince and then boiling them. I decided to do a finer chop, hoping it would make putting them through the sieve later easier.

The fruit in the picture has been cooking a few hours and is nice and soft. I'll put it through a fine sieve (and cheat a bit and put it through the food processor as well.) Then it goes back on the stove with equal amounts of sugar to fruit by weight.
There are a variety of recipes. I found several in the marmalade book I mentioned earlier, as well as here. There seem to be at least one in all my late historic cookbooks as well. I figured I'd try out a few options since I has quite a few quince. The first batch was sugar with heavy spices (clove, allspice, cinnamon.) I love the flavor, but was disappointed by the color. The spices turned the paste much more brown than I would have preferred. One of the best things about cooking quince is watching the magic of it turning color from the warm yellow gold of the fruit to a beautiful pink/orange/rose as it cooks longer.

For the second batch, I did something much more like Portugese membrillo. This form of quince paste is still popular for eating with salty cheese. It is the quince, sugar, and a bit of lemon juice and vanilla. I love the color, but the flavor isn't quite as exciting. Really nice though (at least from the spoonful I snuck as I filled the molds.

Chardequince was put into decorative boxes/molds in the Elizabethan period. Since I don't have any of those hanging around, I decided to try out some of my jelly molds. They are much larger and deeper than those made for quince, but I had them on hand. I'm hoping they'll look nice on my dessert table for the Fairytale Feast I am cooking for Toys for Tots in November. I've got them in drying out and setting now, so we'll see how it goes.

In the mean time, I made a small version shaped with a large cookie cutter to try. Not as decorative, but it is nice and thin and I put it in a warm oven to speed it up a little so it was set and ready to eat this morning after I made it yesterday. Here's the picture before I cut into it. It lasted about 5 seconds once my son tried it and shouted "Come on guys, it's CANDY!"

No comments:

Post a Comment