Quince, no longer a mystery
A few days ago, a neighbor of mine sent out an email. Her quince tree had more fruit than she could use, and she was offering fruit up to anyone who would pick it. I didn’t even know how to pronounce “quince,” but I was intrigued by the offer, so I grabbed a bag and headed to her house. Twenty minutes later, I had as many pounds of quince as I could carry. And no idea what to do with it.
OSU Extension has recipes for quince preserves, which looked tasty. However, I still don’t have a pot large enough to can in (that’s a post for another day). With canning out of the question, I searched for other quince recipes. I found several for poached quince, which seemed simple: Slice the fruit, put it in a pot of water, honey and spices, and boil. But I must have cut my pieces too small, because after only about 20 minutes they lost all resemblance to slices and turned into more of a slush. Unwilling to let my work go to waste, I decided I was actually making refrigerator fruit butter/jam. Aside from a little scorching (due to not heeding the “stir often” advice), it turned out beautifully.
But I still had 20 or so quinces to do something with. A Douglas County Master Gardener had the answer: a recipe for quince pudding, which, to my reading, sounded like quince pastry rolls. Basically, you chop up quince, roll it in dough, pour a sugar/butter/cardamom sauce over it, and bake. I wasn’t sure about it when I put the fruit-studded dough drowning in sauce in the oven.
As it baked, I thought I might ease — or increase — my doubts by looking online for a photo of quince pudding. Nothing I found resembled my concoction, but I found something more useful: An apparently identical recipe, which called for the dish to bake at 350 degrees.
About 45 minutes later I took the pudding out of the oven. Instead of soaked dough rolls, I saw fruit pastry smothered in glistening, gooey, delicious-looking sauce.
I waited as long as I could, then dished myself up some of the hot pudding. I took a bite and knew instantly I’d made a horrible mistake: I now had an entire pan of quince pudding in my house, and no one to stop me from eating it.
The fruit turned a golden color, not the deep rose it did when I made fruit butter. It also retained some of its tartness. But given the amount of sugar in the dish, I found the overall taste to be just right. It was so good.
As it turns out, OSU Extension has bunches of resources about quince — everything from how to plant it (see page 6, PDF) to how to prune it (PDF) to what pests to watch for. I learned quinces give back to a gardener not only with fruit, but as a hummingbird attractant.
I did a little out-of-network research and was surprised to find that the fruit has an almost cult-status among some foodies. It’s prized for its ability to be enjoyed sweet or savory, its garnet color after cooking, and its variety. The Guardian editors think so highly of the fruit they penned an editorial in praise of it. Another UK publication, The Telegraph, also issued a love letter to the fruit.
Thanks to a generous neighbor, I can now count myself as part of the quince fan club too.