QUINCE | THE FORGOTTEN FRUIT

Mediterranean diet

THEY ARE HANGING IN THE LATE AUTUMN TREES UNTIL THE FIRST DAYS OF FROST, AND SHAPE THE RURAL LANDSCAPE

The extraordinary fruit is widespread throughout the Mediterranean and in recent years has experienced a renaissance in the kitchen. As one of the last fruits in the seasonal calendar, harvested from October through November, they enchant with a long-lasting intense aroma when picked and placed in a bowl. The first evidence goes back 4,000 years. Later they were cultivated in Mesopotamia, in the legendary Babylon and in Greece, where they were first used from 600 BC, although the Romans began to appreciate the fruit from 200 BC.

It is said that the Greeks have grown the best quinces in the ancient world in the city of Cydon on Crete, hence the botanical name Cydonia Oblonga which comes from the Latin Mela Cydonia, which translates as “Apple from Kydon”. Via Greece and Italy they came to Spain, where they were highly valued and even exported to South America where they are now grown in countries like Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. In Argentina and Ecuador, it is even considered the national dessert.


200 TYPES OF QUINCE
Of the approximately 200 types of quince, only a few can be eaten raw. They are roughly divided into apple and pear quinces. Apple quinces (Cydonia oblonga var. Maliformis) are harder, but also more aromatic, and are therefore better suited for processing. Pear quinces (Cydonia oblonga var. Oblonga) however, have a softer flesh and can be eaten raw when fully ripe. They are a little easier to work with, but not as intense in flavor.

The famous alchemist Nostradamus praised the fruit in his “Traité des confitures”, printed in Lyon in 1555, as “food worthy of a king”. His writings stated that cooks mistakingly peeled the fruit before cooking, not knowing that the skin contained the strongest aroma. Incidentally, his recipe for Gelée des coings is of minimalist purity: The fruits are pitted, cut and simmered with only sugar and water until the end product turns red “like an oriental ruby”.

The quince grows on a deciduous shrub or trees with heights of 4 to 8 meters and can live as long as 50 years. It only blooms for a short period in May and June, and the fragrant flower is up to 7 cm in diameter and consists of five white or pink colored petals. The yellow, fragrant, hairy, multi-seeded fruit has a diameter of 3-5 cm in the wild form, but commercially cultivated varieties can produce significantly larger fruits.

QUINCE HAVE BEEN POPULAR SINCE ANCIENT TIMES
Quinces have always been a symbol of wisdom, beauty, persistence and immortality. In Ancient Greece, they were consecrated to the goddess of love, Aphrodite. The fruit was the symbol of love, happiness and fertility, and newly-weds had to eat some slices before entering the bridal room. The Romans continued the Greek tradition and depicted the goddess Venus holding a quince in her right hand.

Later, in the Middle Ages, quinces from Portugal were considered the best. This is how the word jam comes from marmelo, the Portuguese word for quince, as the fruit was often used to make jam from an early age where the aristocracy liked to serve them on their princely set tables to impress.


200 TYPES OF QUINCE
Of the approximately 200 types of quince, only a few can be eaten raw. They are roughly divided into apple and pear quinces. Apple quinces (Cydonia oblonga var. Maliformis) are harder, but also more aromatic, and are therefore better suited for processing. Pear quinces (Cydonia oblonga var. Oblonga) however, have a softer flesh and can be eaten raw when fully ripe. They are a little easier to work with, but not as intense in flavor.

The famous alchemist Nostradamus praised the fruit in his “Traité des confitures”, printed in Lyon in 1555, as “food worthy of a king”. His writings stated that cooks mistakingly peeled the fruit before cooking, not knowing that the skin contained the strongest aroma. Incidentally, his recipe for Gelée des coings is of minimalist purity: The fruits are pitted, cut and simmered with only sugar and water until the end product turns red “like an oriental ruby”.


DULCE DE MEMBRILLO FROM ANDALUSIA

Quince fruit have long been cooked thanks to its long shelf life and high energy content. Since these fruits are rich in pectin, they are most often found as jam, jelly or compote. The famous quince paste – Dulce de membrillo – is still traditionally produced and widely used in Spain, especially in Puente Genil, Córdoba.

Traditionally in Spain, families collect fallen quinces in the orchards in autumn and cook them overnight. In the morning, the liquefied fruit is poured into pots, where it turns into a firm, reddish paste that is high in vitamin C and, above all, extremely delicious. The taste is unique, sweet and slightly astringent at the same time. The end product is usually thinly sliced and eaten with Manchego cheese, but also used for numerous sweets and pastries.


INGREDIENTS
1 kg of quince
1 kg of sugar

INSTRUCTIONS
Wash the quinces well and put them in a sauce-pan covered with water. Bring the water to boil and then let it simmer on medium heat until the fruit becomes soft. The time depends on the size of the quinces, around 50-60 minutes. Remove from the water and let them drain.
When they have cooled a little, peel them, remove the core, cut into pieces and grind. The next step is to weigh the cooked quince and add the same amount of sugar. Put the mixture in the widest and tallest saucepan you have and let the mixture stand over low heat.
Now you have to be patient and stir with a wooden spoon from time to time so that the quince does not stick to the bottom of the pot. It’s a long process that depends on the cooking temperature.
When the quince meat slides to the one side of the pot and can be held in place, it’s done. All that remains is to put the quince paste in a mold rubbed with a little sunflower oil to avoid sticking and then put into the refrigerator for about 24 hours so that it takes on a congealed consistency.

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