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2018 Grateful 17 | Quince

Google, there’s such a thing as too much information. I had thought I spent hours yesterday processing my quince harvest, making quince jelly and quince butter, only to find that they may not be quince at all.

Wikipedia tells me that the quince is

a pome fruit, similar in appearance to a pear, and bright golden-yellow when mature.

Mine are definitely yellow but look nothing like pears. There are two trees out front – I thought both were quince but her next door tells me that the windfalls I have ripening on the windowsill are not worth eating – the tree is for decoration only and indeed, it does have some lovely flowers on it when in bloom. But I was sure the fruit was quince. One tree still has green fruit, the other bright yellow. Those had to be quince but they look more like small apples than pears.

Then I found a picture of the Constantinople apple quinces and breathed a sigh of relief. That effort hadn’t gone to waste.

They’re a quirky little fruit, loaded with all sorts of medicinal properties. Shakespeare called them “stomach’s comforter.” Some other tidbits I gleaned from a couple of hours searching for a likeness include:

  • Quinces in England were first recorded in about 1275 when Edward I had some planted at the Tower of London.
  • Seeing his beloved in the courtyard of the temple of Aphrodite, Acontius plucked a quince from the “orchard of Aphrodite”, inscribed its skin and furtively rolled it at the feet of her illiterate nurse, whose curiosity aroused, handed it to the girl to read aloud, and the girl finds herself saying “I swear by Aphrodite that I will marry Acontius.” Apparently even saying it aloud meant she had to go through with it. I read all the ones I picked and nothing.
  • The humble quince has been considered the catalyst of the Trojan War, as told by Greek legend. [I could find no more on this.]
  • Puréed quince can be used as a substitute for brown sugar or raisins on oatmeal – a healthy start to your day.
  • Quince is best known for its strong, tropical and fruity aroma. This fruit was an inevitable part of wedding ceremonies in Ancient Greece. Bride consumed quince to ensure pleasantly smelling, “perfumed lips”.
  • The world’s largest quince weighed 2.34 kg (5 lb 2 oz), measured 21.5 cm (8.5 in) in length and had a circumference of 68 cm (27 in). The quince was grown by Edward Harold McKinney (USA) in Citronelle, Alabama, USA in January 2002.
  • The term “marmalade”, originally meaning a quince jam, derives from marmelo, the Portuguese word for this fruit.
quince jelly

Quince jelly

quince butter quince paste quince cheese marmelo

What the butter looked like before I put it in the unregulated oven to dry out…

So after hours (and I mean hours) of slogging over a hot stove (and it 27 degrees outside), I have three jars of quince jelly and a slab of not very successful quince paste (as it’s known in Australia) or quince cheese (as it’s known in the UK), or quince butter or marmelo (as they call it in Portugal. The half-jar of extra jelly won’t last long. The stuff is delicious and I’m not a jam woman. The quince butter as I said didn’t turn out as expected as I don’t have a regulator on the oven so it cooked too much. But I’m going to give it another go next week when I have all ten fingers to work with and have the wherewithal to take on the quince bush again. And if there’s enough fruit left to try another batch when I get back on Wednesday, I’ll be ever so grateful. Of quince, I want more.

The recipe I followed… or tried to follow…

A new twist on catering

‘The caterers will be here at 6.30’, she said. Unusual, I thought, given her penchant for cooking, her single-mindedness about sourcing local produce, and her slightly controlling, albeit extremely lovable, nature. But then all was revealed. These were no ordinary caterers and it was no ordinary catering. It was a cheese extravaganza, complete with personalised cheese boards! Angela Morris and Tim Homewood of Homewood Cheeses are the brains behind the operation and if they’d travel, they’d be welcome in Budapest any day.

The table was heaving under the weight of some half-dozen artisan cheeses, homemade chutneys, quince jelly, fresh breads, and fruit. What a spread. And, more interestingly still, the pair of professionals were on hand to answer questions. I am ashamed to say that I’ve never before really appreciated the art that is cheesemaking. It came as a surprise to hear that the industry has its own awards. Who’d have thought, eh? I had to summon serious will power to leave the dining room lest I make a complete spectacle of myself and eat more than my body weight in Tymsboro goats cheese and onion marmalade.

Mary Holbrook, from Timsbury, Bath, has no need for advertising. She sells everything she makes and having tasted her Tymsboro goats cheese, I can see why. A former museum curator, Mary started making cheese in the 1970s and when she started, she hadn’t a clue what she was doing. Today, it’s a different story.

Other cheeses on offer included a Westcombe cheddar from Somerset; Old Demdike, a ewe’s cheese from Tim Homewood in Wells;  Wrekin Blue – a soft blue from Shropshire; Baronet, a reblochon style Jersey milk cheese made by Julianna Sedli, a Hungarian cheesemaker now living near Corsham; and a fresh ewes cheese also by Tim.

As I circled the table on my initial reconnaissance, I fell completely in love (if that’s possible) with the onion marmalade. And in love just with the look of it; I’d yet to taste it. But when I did, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. The breads were baked with rye and smelt and felt as if they’d not been long out of the oven. Even the butter tasted different.  And because everything was practically oozing of freshness and environmental friendliness, I could almost convince myself that I was doing the world a favour by indulging.

I was reminded of the old TV series, Mastermind and figured that Tim and Angela’s specialist subject would be cheese and all things related thereto. [Tim also teaches cheese making – yet another instance of me wishing I lived locally.] Mind you, before my conversion, I would have put money on finding cheese a rather boring topic of conversation but then I’d not met this pair. It’s obvious that they care a great deal about what they do – and it’s now obvious that what they do really is an art form.  This cheese fest added a lovely, different touch to what was never going to be just another 40th birthday party in a beautiful old house in Bath – it was always going to be special. The cheese made it even more so.