There is nothing like baked quinces.
When cooked slowly (4-5 hours) with sugar or /and honey they they transform from an indeterminate dirty cream, pale green colour to a deep coral. They look beautiful, smell good and taste great.
Resting in their raw state on a bench or in a fruit bowl, they will also deodorize the environment.
In spite of being cooked for such a long time they retain some of their firmness and hold their shape and do not turn squashy like apples or pears.
It is an autumnal fruit and although we are nearing the end of winter in Melbourne I bought some recently. Usually when I buy quinces I buy them loose but each one of these was individually wrapped in paper and packed firmly in a box. They were labelled as Australian. We are a big country and I would imagine that they would still be found in an other part of Australia. I also imagine that because we can store apples and pears successfully, we would be able to keep quinces in cold storage too.
My yearning for quinces this year began in Nottingham. I was there in early May which is not quince season, but as you may know anything can be bought out of season in the UK from anywhere in the world.
These quinces came from Morocco and my friend slowly baked them. These were smoother than any quince I had ever seen and much more round. My friend, Pat, is an Australian living in Nottingham and she agreed with me.
It is easy to see how Pat prepared her quinces – she cut the quinces horizontally and made neat regular hollows removing the core. Then she placed them upright in a ceramic baking dish she had buttered beforehand. She placed honey and small pieces of butter in the hollowed cores and added a little more butter around the quinces.
Cloves, bay leaves, a little sugar and water and surrounded the quinces. She covered them with foil and baked them at about 150C for about 3hours. The foil came off for the last hour. And the quinces in Nottingham were superb!
While we enjoyed an array of British produce and ate warm quinces with excellent rich British cream and drinking Italian liqueurs and Scotch, another happening was going on in her front garden, so you can see what season we were heading into in Nottingham.
And very close to their house this was going on in the small river.
First we met an egret poised to fish on the water’s edge. Then we saw a swan sitting on a nest … the companion was floating nearby. Shortly after we left Nottingham, cygnets hatched and made their parents proud.
Back to quinces in Melbourne Australia.
Here is what ingredients I used and what I did.
I wiped the fuzz off the quinces and preheated my oven to 140C (fan-forced).
You can basically flavour quinces with whatever takes your fancy.
I wanted to eat the quinces cold and therefore used no butter.
3 quinces, star anise, cinnamon quills, cloves, black peppercorns, bay leaves.
1 lemon, zest (grated), peel from 3/4 of an orange – I used a potato peeler.
About 200g sugar, 100g honey.
1 cup of white wine and 1 cup of water.
I put the spices and peel and the liquid in a baking dish.
I cut the quinces in half lengthways and lay them in a baking dish, cut side down, skin side up. I cored them but did not peel them.
Mine didn’t look as good but they too tasted great.
I then drizzled them with honey and scattered sugar over them. I them made sure that there was sufficient liquid around the sides of the quinces, but not enough to cover them. I then used foil to cover them and I baked them for two hours.
I finished off the cooking for another two hours without the foil. And it is during this time that magic happens and the colour changes .
I presented my quinces with some homemade Mascarpone.
And shortly after we left Nottingham and were on our way to Sicily, the Peonies joined the numerous poppies in the front garden. The good weather had arrived.