They dined on mince, and slices of quince,Which they ate with a runcible spoon;And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,They danced by the light of the moon.~ The Owl and the Pussy Cat, Edward Lear (1871)
The quince is a quirky little fruit.
If you haven't experienced quinces before, they are a bit like a cross between a very hard pear and a quava in texture, practically inedible in its raw state but when you cook it for long periods, its white flesh slowly develops a gorgeous ruby red hue that tastes of fragrantly floral tartness.
I know I'm romanticising them a little but heck I'm not the only one, according to myths, legend and wiki the quince was the fruit given to Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love by Paris the Prince of Troy and ancient Greek brides would nibble on quinces to perfume their breath before entering the bridal chamber.
This quintessential autumnal fruit is rather old-fashioned and these days isn't all that common to come by. They are rarely seen in supermarkets plus the quince season is quite short. You kinda gotta know people who know people.
It's been a quince-tastic couple of weeks for me. It all started in March (the beginning of quince season down under) when I got a big batch of quinces from the very lovely Catherine at work. I tried my hand at making quince paste and jelly but ended up with something more akin to quince sauce.
But all was not lost when the extremely knowledgeable Duncan of NZ Food Historian came to rescue me from my quince quandry and not only taught me the proper way to make quince jelly and paste but sent me home with my arms filled with gorgeous quinces from his orchard and my head filled with the wonderful world of Aristology which he introduced me to. More on the aristology and quince jelly and paste in another post but needless to say I've been jam-making, quince-baking and bread-making in any spare moment since. Looks like he's unknowingly acquired himself an aristologist apprentice...
Now since I promised a quince recipe, I thought I would start with something a little bit different from the traditional jelly/paste recipe and present this wee gem: Maple Chardonnay Slow Roasted Quinces. Inspired by Duncan, Nigel Slater and Anabel Langbein, this is a delicious alternative way to cook up your quinces if you're a bit jellied out. The slow temperature gives them a lovely texture and lets them get to that seductive deep amber ruby colour. Gorgeously tart with that hint of caramelly maple, we gobbled ours up with ice cream or creamy greek yoghurt but they would be equally superb in a tart tartin or crumble.
Maple Chardonnay Slow Roasted Quinces
2 cups chardonnay (or other fruity white wine)
3/4 cup white sugar
8 whole cloves
4 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 cup maple syrup
1. Preheat the oven to 150oC with the rack on a low shelf. Rub off all the furry bits off the skin of hte quinces then peel and quarter them (you can leave the cores in or take them out - leaving them in makes the syrup set to more of a jelly). Immediately rub them with the cut lemon to slow the browning. They will still go a bit brown but this will get covered up when cooked. Place cut side down in a large baking tray.
2. In a medium sauce pan, heat chardonnay, cloves, cinnamon stick, star anise and sugar over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Mix in maple syrup and squeeze 1/2 a lemon of juice. Pour over the quince quarters.
3. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake at 150oC for 3 hours until the quinces have turned a ruby red colour and are soft. Serve warm or cold with ice cream, use on tarts or cakes or in a crumble.