Thursday, November 12, 2009

On Quinces

Imagine a misshapen apple that's as hard as a rock. Now keep in mind that this has been a horrible year for farmers in the Northeast. Quince farmers, peddling that rare fruit now only found in the stalwart homesteader's kitchen and in NYC farmers' markets where it probably sells for a fortune selling to people who don't know better, were no exception. Rain washed off any and all spray, so the whole crop was worm infested.

My landlords ended up with three bushels in their kitchen, which smelled divinely of quinces stewing away for what must have been the past few days. A note about my landlords - I have found my landlord-soulmates. If it weren't for them I would be on Craigslist right now scouring the rentals section. They have the most beautiful kitchen and garden I've ever seen - the two most important places in the world. So here I am, walking into the kitchen piled with quinces to get the recipe for the delicious, beautiful, ruby-colored quince leathers their oldest daughter (9) delivered to me as I pulled in after work. Here's what my landlady tells me after piling me with 10 or so worm-infested quinces.

Quince Leather (the ideal)

Cut out the seeds and cut into small pieces. Leave the skins on.

Add to a large pot with a bit of red wine (1/4 cup for 6-8 quinces), cinnamon, whatever spices you'd like, and some water

Simmer until you're sure it can't get any thicker without burning. At some point into this process, when it feels safe, add some sugar. Not a whole lot, perhaps a 1/2 cup.

Use a hand-blender to get it nice and smooth.

Spread about 1/4 inch (the thicker, the gummier and more delicious it is) onto a wax-papered cookie sheet and set on two bricks over the wood stove until it's hard on top. Then flip it over (this is the messy part) and let it dry all the way through.

Quince leather (in real life)

First off - the suckers are HARD!!! cutting them into pieces and coring them could only be done with a chef's knife. So I had to cut each quince in quarters, then cut the quarters in half cross-wise, then cut out the seeds (no easy task with my dull knife) and then hack out the worm-eaten parts as best I could. an hour and a half later, I had a pot full of quinces, cinnamon, a dash of fresh-grated nutmeg and a few cloves, only to discover I had no red wine! The nearest liquor store being ten miles away and certainly closed, I decided to suck it up and use the white wine that's been sitting in the back of my fridge for 3 weeks. Which brings us to

Number two - the red wine is for the color. White wine adds a pleasant taste, but as the quinces cook down (SLOWLY) they turn into an entirely unappetizing green color. It didn't help that when I tasted it before adding sugar, the whole mushy mess tasted a bit like bile. So I added sugar.

Third - "not a whole lot of sugar" is a blatant lie. I added at least 1 1/2 cups. Which I guess isn't a lot - but is significantly more than 1/2 a cup. They're sour little devils.

Fourth - I watched Wall-E and had an hour-long phone conversation before the quince butter, puke-green as it was, was anywhere near the consistency of a thick apple-butter. Finally, FINALLY at midnight (I like to go to sleep at 10:00 when nothing is stopping me, and usually nothing is stopping me) I mashed the goop with a potato masher which was no easy going (I don't have an immersion blender and my Cuisinart (1970's model that my parents got before they were married) is on loan to friends, where I keep forgetting to pick it up) and spread half of the quince butter onto the cookie sheet. It tasted good, but color means a lot and puke-green is not appetizing. By this point, the stove had to be restocked, so I threw a couple of logs in, closed the contraption up, put the cookie sheet on top, and went to sleep.

This morning, the stove was still hot and going and the quince leather was still green, but the top was hard and dry (YAY!)!! However, since I was already dressed in my work clothes and pre-caffeinated, the thing was unflipable - or so it seemed to me at the time. So I did the unthinkable when the high is in the mid-50's, I'm going to work all day and don't need a warm house, and I only have 2 chords of wood for the winter - I restocked the oven.

Update on the fruit leathers to come after 5.

No comments:

Post a Comment