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2019 Grateful 15

‘When you first get down here [the village], you’re grumpy as hell. But when you’ve been here a day you’re in much better humour. Remarkable really.’ I’ve noticed that myself but having himself point it out made it all the more real. Read more

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…

From the garden

The give and take of time and truck

The village is heaving with gardens, various plots of land with flowers and fruit and vegetables. Those who live here all the time can keep an eye on things and compensate for the lack of rain by watering their produce. We haven’t yet capitalised the P&R in permanent residents, something that is seriously curtailing our Good Life adventure. Still, himself has planted peppers and tomatoes with the unsolicited help of her-next-door and they’re actually growing. I have a sneaking suspicion that herself has a vested interest in seeing them flourish and that, in the absence of rain and of our good selves, she might be watering them herself. But I’m not complaining.

The cold war that began when we put up the fence last year is slowly warming to tepid. We had a grand chat yesterday that consisted of her giving me her recipe for pickling cucumbers. I proudly showed her the two big jars of ones I’d already done, expecting at least a nod of appreciation, however grudging, but, of course, I had made the mistake of slicing them. Why did I slice them? Why? And she didn’t spot any dill in my brine. I had mustard seeds, chili peppers, and black peppercorns,  though, but no dill.

From the garden

An hour later, I heard her calling over the fence. She had dill for me, and more cucumbers (presumably so I could get it right this time), and a massive zucchini, the size of which amused her no end. From what I gathered (bearing in mind how limited my Hungarian is) our German neighbour a few doors up had had great fun with the one she’d given them. Apparently, he likes his pantomime. Say no more. Say no more.

Anyway, having repeated the recipe she gave me for rántott zucchini three times to her satisfaction, I left her wondering what I’d make of it all.

Coincidently, other neighbours had given us a big bucket of walnuts that I’d spent four hours shelling yesterday afternoon. I glazed most of them in maple syrup and rock salt for salads but still had some left dry. And with memories of a delicious banana bread the lovely MI made for us a while back, I thought: Why not make a zucchini and walnut bread. And if I make enough, I can give a loaf to each of the neighbours, a sort of homage to their produce and their neighbourliness.

This is what I love about village life. The sharing of wealth. The give and take of time and truck that makes everyone’s life just a little bit easier.

 

Walnut and zucchini bread