This is the time of the year when I stroll through a farmer’s market and get super excited about one fruit in particular. That fruit reminds me of the seductive aroma of roses. Can you guess the fruit – are you ready for a little food trivia?
Irresistible & tender
The fruit is yellow when ripe and is the size of a small apple. It can't compete much in a beauty contest since the surface is not that smooth, but if you put your nose to it an amazing floral scent will tickle your nostrils. Actually, it’s botanically related to the rose family, and in the same token that makes it related to apples and pears. The taste of it will remind you of these when it is cooked. In fact, it has an astringent flavor profile in its raw state and is not enjoyable. It's said that it was the famed fruit that Adam and Eve bit into instead of an apple.
Enough with the story telling. You might have solved the riddle by now.
I'm writing about quince! The quince is one of those fruits that stresses a cook’s brain cells more than a little bit. In order to bring the raw fruit’s seductive rose scent to a dinner’s plate, it needs to be cooked. After some time in a flavorful broth, its yellow color becomes a feminine pink with a tender texture. Its high natural pectin content makes it ideal for preserving. It can also be crushed with a table fork or simply put in a food processor, which makes it spreadable on breakfast toast. To me it has a delectable mouth-feel that can be described as soft with a gentle texture. Cooked wedges of quince are also terrific grilled. My favorite combinations to serving them with are venison or pork.
Let’s cook quince
When it’s available at your local food market, I encourage you to look out for quince and pick a few pieces up. Follow this simple cooking method below to make your quinces shine.
(recipe for 4 pieces quince)
3 cups water
1 cup agave
1 tablespoon honey
1 stick cinnamon or 1/4 teaspoon powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of clove powder, optional
1/2 vanilla bean (see chef's tip below)
10 grindings black pepper from a mill
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1) Peel quinces with a vegetable peeler and cut into four wedges. Remove the cores with a small paring knife.
2) Combine quince and all other ingredients in a gallon-sized pot.
3) On high heat bring mixture to a boil then lower to a simmer and cook for 60 minutes. At this point the quinces should be soft when pierced with a knife – if not, cook another 20 minutes.
Chef's tip: I recommend using intensely flavorful vanilla bean in this recipe instead of vanilla extract; it will make the quince particularly enjoyable. I suggest to do the following: With a small knife cut the vanilla bean lengthwise, open, then scrape out the small black seeds with the back of the knife. Cook vanilla seeds and the scraped vanilla pod in the cooking liquid. Store the leftover piece of vanilla bean in saran wrap in the freezer.
Chef's note: Poaching describes the cooking process where liquid stays just under the boiling point. It retains the natural identity of the item being poached. If you own a cooking thermometer, use it during the poaching process to keep the liquid around 190 degrees Fahrenheit. To me, that's the ideal poaching temperature for quince.