Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Quince (kdoule)!!

We stumbled across the aroma of fresh quince when we first checked into our Penzion (bed/breakfast) in Lednice, South Moravia (near the Austrian border). Here were several beautiful quince laid out on the table in the back hallway.
When you pick up the fruit and smell the base, your nose catches numerous fragrances wafting around:  lemon, pear, apple, and a bit of pineapple. The aroma of these is magnificent!

Quince (Cydonia oblonga; =Chaenomeles xsuperba), of course, are related to apples and pears, being in the Rose family (Rosaceae). They are native to the Caucasus Region of southwestern Asia. The fruit have a fuzz that wipes off quickly to reveal a glorious buttery yellow skin.

This cultivar, we later learned is one of two grown in the Czech Republic. It is 'Champignon'.

Quince fruits are extremely hard and not tasty when raw (due to lots of tannins in them). Historically, Quince have been used to make marmalades and as a source of pectin. In fact, the word marmalade is derived from 'marmello' which is a marmalade made of quince and lemons. Quince paste or Membrillo is a popular pairing with cheeses in Spain.

Our hostess at the Penzion offered us some of her preserved Quince which we had the following morning with breakfast.  Quite tasty!

I asked whether we could have a quince and, before we left, she had given us a bag of 10!  What a culinary find!

The thing to remember when cooking quince is that it takes TIME!  It may take 5-7 hours of slow baking or poaching to get them soft enough.  Best to peel them, cut them in half and wait to scoop out the seeds/stem until after they are cooked (they're hard as stone otherwise!!).  Interestingly enough, as the quince cook the tannins turn to red pigments (anthocyanins), resulting in dark pink or red flesh!

We baked some in a shallow baking dish with lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, and a cinnamon stick, gently basting them from time-to-time.  And, voila! Here is the delightfully red quince served with fresh whipped cream!
You can see how the exposed, outer surfaces of the quince turned a deep red.  Enjoy.

Later, for Thanksgiving Dinner, we made a cranberry relish with some of Poached Quince. We poached quince (peeled, halved) in Bohemian Seco "champagne", along with vanilla bean (scored open vertically), cinnamon sticks, lemon juice and lemon zest. Poaching took ~4 hours with a slow simmer.  These were stored (refrigerated or frozen) for use, when the spirit hits.

For the cranberry relish, we used Neil's sister Wanda's recipe and modified it by adding in poached quince.  Here it is simmering away on the stove:

Czech Quince/Cranberry Relish
16 oz. cranberries or brusinka (we used the small wild ones which were preserved, as fresh ones are not available at this time of year in Europe!)
1/3 cup Ruby Port Wine
1/4 cup Czech honey (we used the amber colored honey from the farmer's market)
Boil these together until well enmeshed and the cranberries are done.
Add in:
1 finely finely sliced poached quince, destemmed and deseeded
2 small, ripe finely sliced pears, peeled, destemmed/deseeded
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, aged (thick)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
zest of 1 orange
Simmer slowly for 15-20 minutes until it is a ruby red color.
Chill. Serve with turkey or other meats. Also good on ice cream or as a 'jam' on toast!

As it simmers, it gets redder and redder:
We'll post more Quince recipes later, as we make them!

Disclaimer: This blog is not an official University of Minnesota or Fulbright Program blog. The views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations, or the University of Minnesota.

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