Posted on | October 4, 2012 | 1 Comment
Quince paste is drying in a slow oven. It’s taken 18 months to get to this point and the entire venture started as an accident. The recipe used to make it is problematic and the result is proving stubbornly sticky to the touch. Yet it’s so damn delicious that I’d proudly serve it to Suleiman the Great.
When the bare root sapling that provided the quinces was planted as part of a fruit tree allee in the winter of 2010, the plant tag read “Santa Rosa plum.” When the plant that subsequently flowered, leafed out and fruited looked like a Dr. Seuss cartoon of an apple tree, it was clear that this was no plum. The Seuss fruit was a quince.
Raw, quinces are odd and unappealing. The form is bulbous, the skin fuzzy, the body disarmingly hard and light, and the flesh a dry maze of what seems like tough cellulose. It takes cooking to tease out a quince’s pear-like aromatics, suppleness and rich store of pectin. So, as small crop of quinces ripened this autumn, for a paste recipe, I turned to the 2002 book Chez Panisse Fruit, by Alice Waters.