Monday, October 15, 2012

MoFo 15: Quince-o-Rama!

Have you ever had a quince? Some folks out there in internet land have probably never tasted quince, while others might already be quince fans. Quince is not a super common fruit around these parts, probably because it is kind of a pain in the butt to prepare (more on that later). However, it has a totally amazing and delicate flavor - full of aromatic and floral tones - that is quite distinct and lovely. Quince are used a lot in Persian food, which is where I first had them. They pair nicely with apples and pears in desserts, and are generally quite delicious. The Spanish also use quince and make an amazing quince paste called membrillo.

One of the difficult things about quince is that you cannot eat it raw. It must be cooked. When raw, it is super hard (like a crazy unripe pear) and very unpleasantly astringent. Once cooked however, it is soft and lovely. Can you see the downy fuzz? You gotta wash that off first!

I've got access to a quince tree, and while there were just a few last year, this year was a real bumper crop! I went by the tree to pick fruit 3 or 4 times, and in the end I think I had picked about 40 pounds of quince. Whoa. In case you were wondering, that's a lot of quince.

This is what a quince looks like when you cut it open.

I know this isn't really a great picture - but I wanted you to see something special about quince. Quince have a LOT of pectin in them, quite naturally. There is a lot of pectin in the skins, but especially around the pips. Can you see in this picture, all the clear pectin around the seeds? It looks like moisture, but it's actually thick like jelly. It's super cool.

Because of all that natural pectin, it's always good to save the skins and pips when you're cooking with quince. In fact, you can make a special drink just with this good stuff! However, I wanted the pectin for my quince jam, so I put them all in a baggie, and boiled them first.

For my quince jam, I cooked the quince with the their skins on still...

...but for my Spiced Quince in Light Syrup, I wanted the quince all sliced up and peeled. This was so much work. At least 2 hours. Quince are so hard and tough to cut. It's like some sort of new age work out routine. I actually had a blister on my hand by the end of it. But clearly it's worth it. Doesn't this giant bowl of quince look pretty in the autumn light?

The first thing I made was some quince jam. It had the skins and the pulp, plus a little added sugar. It's not a super firm set, but I really love the way this turned out. It's got the slightly gritty texture of the quince (a lot like a pear), but is still smooth and nice. Also, the light sweetener really lets the delicate flavor of the quince come out.

My second quince undertaking was a big giant batch of Spiced Quince. I used a recipe from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison. She has a few nice quince recipes in that book. Over the years, I've made them all with great success. This recipe has become a favorite because it's pretty special and makes great gifts. The quince are cooked with sugar, cinnamon sticks, orange rind, and a few cloves. This year I lightened the spices and the syrup a little - because in the past I've felt that the spices (especially the cloves) were a bit too dominant. These cook for about three hours, so the quince are very tender. They're great on ice cream, or in pies with apples & pears. Mmm.

In this picture you can really see another magical thing about quince. They start off yellowish-green on the outsides and white on the insides when they are raw, but once you cook them, they magically take on this glorious warm ruby red color. Isn't it just beautiful?? All natural, baby!

My final project was a big batch of quince jelly. For this, I first made a giant pot of quince "juice" - quince boiled in water for hours and then drained. The juice is super thick, almost gloopy, because of all the natural pectin. It's super cool. Also, it's a very beautiful light pink color. To make the jelly, you simply add sugar and lemon juice, and boil it for a while until it starts to set. Pretty amazing! I made lots of tiny jars, because it makes great gifts, but I don't think people are really gonna be flying through the quince jelly.

I still have about 7-8 cups of quince juice in my fridge, and about 5-6 more quince sitting outside on the table in the backyard... waiting to be used up one way or another. :) Do you have any favorite quince recipes to tell me about?

My mom sent me a note to tell me that October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. All three of our beloved dogs (and our cat!) were adopted from various animal shelters, and we love them beyond words. It's pretty sad to think that they all could have been put to sleep. Especially Stevie Wonder - she was rescued from a shelter where she had just 24 hours left to live!! And she is such an amazing dog, full of love and life!

After seeing our "doggie trick sheet" from my kitchen tour post, River suggested a video of our dogs doing their tricks. So today, while we were enjoying a beautiful walk at the beach, we gave it a shot! They were pretty distracted by all the beach-y excitement, so they were sort of hilariously bad at their tricks, but still, you can see just how wonderful they all are - and just why we love them so much.

you won't be sorry!


  1. Awww, that video is great! They are all so wonderful! Makes me want to adopt another little baby, but we've learned that our Greyhound boy likes being an only child. :)

  2. I've never tried quince.....mostly because I don't love cooked fruit. Unless it's covered in sugar, like in a pie or cobbler. :-) But I would like quince jam, I'm sure. Just too lazy to make it.

  3. Oh, I love this post so much!! Your dogs are so adorable with their tricks! Super impressive! And that drawing at the end is incredibly sweet. It's clear that you all love each other very much.

    I've never tried quince. I'll have to keep an eye out for it! I'm sure your family members and friends love getting your homemade jars of goodness.

  4. When I was growing up we had a quince tree in our garden! I haven't had anything quincey for years and years though, your quince jelly sounds amazing.

  5. I eat quince raw! But you have to train your teeth and gut for years to achieve this level of steel- or foolhardiness! <3

    1. ha ha - it's in your blood!! :)

  6. i have never tried quince too. the jam looks fabulous.. our pom cmae froma shelter, i cant believe someone would leave a tiny fluff bundle at the shelter. he is cutest thing and so food motivated. he can now do rollovers:)

  7. omg hahah your doggies are adorable!!

  8. YAY! Doggies! They are all so smart! Even Baby Dumb-Dumb did very well! I love how Snoopy got a treat even when he didn't do a trick. No pressure, just love! Dogs are the happiest creatures ever - and even happier if there are treats involved. Thank you so much for making this video and for the shoutout! You rock!!

    And about quince - now I am seriously jealous! Forty pounds of quince! You really took advantage of all that poundage too! Quince paste/jam/jelly - it's all so delicious!

    Your drawing today is so sweet! I love how Snoopy is giving you doggie kisses. Go shelter dogs!!

  9. we have an adopted dachshund, Basil. we are thinking of adopting another one too... we love pups.

    nice to read the info about quince - I don't believe I have had it before. your jarred quince all looks so good too!

  10. This is an exceptional single-subject post (well except for the dog part at the end.) The photography is so simple and so beautiful. Ode to quince, with variations on a theme. (More jars await you on my porch.)

  11. Wonderful, informative post. I will probably have to take your word for it that all the work was worth it. It certainly looks like it was worth it, with all the beautiful jars of fruit you ended up with, but I'm pretty sure I'll never end up with 40 lbs. of quince to cook!

    Great video of adorable dogs, but I have to ask. Were you really on a beach today? In shorts? Not fair.

  12. As soon as I hear the word quince, I think of the owl and the pussycat!

    I've only ever seen quince as the quince paste you get in Spain, which I've always fancied trying. I love the look of the quince jelly - beautiful!

  13. I adore quince. I often make a thick puree (like applesauce, but better!) and mix it with some natural soy yoghurt or oats. I've made the puree into sorbet, which was great, but I'm too lazy to make it often. My favourite way to eat them is poached, but I had an Iranian friend who introduced me to raw quince and it was really nice. It just needs to be perfectly ripe, but it's still astringent enough to leave your mouth a little dry. :)

  14. Hmm, I'm not sure if I've had much quince, I've probably had jam and that's about it. I can't believe all the prep that went into this, go you!

    And yay for rescue animals, I always feel so thankful that I found our 3 cats and that they found us :) If only we could save them all. Love the vid :)

  15. i've never had quince! i need to try it.

    and thank you for posting the video of your dogs! i was thinking that i wished i could see all of their tricks after seeing the paper on the fridge. so glad you did!!

  16. For shame, I have had a big bowl of quince on the counter for weeks and haven't used them yet and they're starting to go bad! I know what I want to do with them, but just haven't had any time. I did use a few in a curry ( that was really tasty and interesting, I subbed vegan shrimp but other vegan protein or veggies would do too.

  17. Great job with the big batch of quinces! My mother in law has a friend with a quince tree so she makes jellies and jams every year, I'm not sure that I've ever tried it though.

    As for your dogs, they are so adorable! Rescue animals are awesome, we are smitten with our border collie we rescued a few months ago. It's so worthwhile and like Mandee said, if only we could save them all!

  18. baby dum dum did great!! love this and miss all of you!

  19. I love quinces so so much. In fact, I have some sitting on the window sill right now.


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