Monday, 23 November 2009

Quince preserve (Κυδώνι)

Working with quince is like watching magic happen before your eyes...

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The different colour phases that quince passes through from its raw state to when it becomes a bottled spoon sweet preserve.

Quince starts off as a very ugly fruit, with its furry covering and pinched puckered pear-green skin.

quince fruit
I came by this quince during one of my recent forages (all I had to do was put my hand out the car window).

As you slice through it with a carving knife (at first, it seems hard and astringent), you come across a lily white interior which lasts for just a few seconds before it starts to oxidise. Never mind its rusty rotten looks; its aroma is intoxicating. You now have two choices: turn on the extractor fan (to mesmerise your neighbours) or secure all the doors and windows (to bathe in the aroma all by yourself).

Perlagonium - more foraging, this time, from an overgrown garden near my workplace.

As the chopped (or grated) quince starts to warm up in a pot of water, it begins to whiten again, as if bleach had been added to it. Leave it to simmer for an hour with analogous amount of sugar, and when you return, it will have started to turn pink, reminding you of roses, as the air will now be highly scented; if you have a few sprigs of perlagonium at hand and a freshly picked lemon, those too now. The perfume of this combination of scented plants has now permeated the air; it's time to invite your girlfriends over for a sauna in its scented warmth while the quince cooks away in the syrup.

quince preserve
Quince preserve, a la Nancy. A similar recipe could also be used to make quince jam or jelly.

When it's time to check it again, you'll find that it has transformed into a ruby red sea, gleaming in the heat of the heavenly aromatic syrup. The more it cooks, the redder it becomes.

My favorite way to enjoy this dessert is with Greek strained yoghurt and muesli (or nut) topping. The quince dessert can also be replaced with honey if you don't have access to this spoon sweet (it is probably available from Greek specialty shops in most parts fo the world).

And there you have it: quince spoon sweet, signaling the coming of Christmas and a taste of autumn rain, redolent of the approaching winter as autumn yields to it; there is nothing, absolutely nothing quite like it.

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