The first time I made quince preserves is probably the first time I trusted the magic inherent to the culinary process. I had only seen quince recipes in swoon-worthy cookbooks until I tasted it by way of membrillo (quince paste), paired with an aged manchego cheese at a tapas restaurant whilst on a date with my now husband. It was divinely sweet-tart, with floral, fruity, vague tropical aromatics. It was most wonderful. Serendipitously, a few weeks later, the farm stand that I often frequently had a small box of nearly overripe quince on the counter. I snatched them up – every last one of the intoxicatingly fragrant fruits – to set about making my first ever batch of quince preserves.
They did not disappoint.
The quince is a lumpy, bumpy, tree fruit somewhat reminiscent in shape to a pear. Immature fruits bear a fuzzy coating that greys and thins as the fruits mature from green to yellow throughout the mid to late fall. Its flesh is creamy white that oxidizes swiftly to a rather unfortunate brown. Raw, it is hard, somewhat unattractive and barely edible (except shaved ever so thinly). But, you see, quince is a fruit of transformation. There is much more there than what the eye beholds.
Inside the cloak of this humble fruit is a rosy-amber translucent jewel waiting to be revealed.
If you have been following my Reclaiming the Homestead journey, you might remember my mentions of the skeletal remains of a beaver ravaged orchard. The cherries, pears, and apples lay in waste and the few remaining plums may not survive the winter ahead. In the middle of the bygone orchard is a scraggly bush, practically overtaken with blackberries. It was hardly worth noting during our property visits through the protracted closing process. The night we did finally close on our property a closer inspection revealed an abundance of still small, but characteristic fruit. A quince stood alone. A fruiting symbol of transformation.
Perhaps I dig too deeply for the meaning in things, but it seems no small coincidence that I encounter this fruit again at such a point transformation in my life. And not just that of the most obvious transformation – the renovation the 100 years old homestead, but more subtle transformations. My oldest child is quite nearly an adult, chronologically speaking, and my youngest is now in school full time. There will be no more babies, at least not of my own, and my role as a mother is evolving – someday, far too soon, my “baby” will be too big for me to pick up. I am not “needed” so, as I once was. At the same time, my space here has grown. Once I wondered why anybody would read what I had to say. That seems not to be the case anymore, and I now find myself trying to balance the complexities of writing on subjects of holistic living and actually living holistically. I find myself in the unique position of turning away work in order to remain authentic to my message. I am no longer a student, but a fledgling teacher (who will always be learning). Transformation.
It is in the harsh environment of heat and acid, that the homely quince undergoes its own transformation. Heated slowly, over a fair about of time, slices of quince take on the jewel-hued translucency of a late summer sunset. Amber-rose quince preserves are elegant, complex, intensely aromatic, almost otherworldly. Quince preserves are not only the result of a transformation but serve to transform sweet and savory meals into something truly special. Unmistakably perfect with an aged manchego, quince preserves melted over crispy duck is divine. Folded into mascarpone and tucked into pastry, it makes a delicious dessert. Even a dollop atop Greek yogurt with a handful of pistachios is a treat fit for a queen.
Quince preserves are a culinary symbol of transformation. Trust in the process.
Quince is a fruit that undergoes an enormous transformation to become something wonderful. These quince preserves are a culinary delight. Makes 6-8 half pints.
- 3 lbs quince
- 2 cups organic sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 4 cups water
Peel, core, and quarter your quince, then slice into wedges approximately 1/4" inch thick. Place in a bowl of cold water with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice to prevent excessive browning and oxidation while you work through the fruit.
Drain fruit. Place the prepared quince, lemon juice, sugar, and water in a large, heavy bottom stock pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for approximately one hour. During this time, the quince will become a deep translucent pinkish orange and quite thick.
Ladle into sterilized half-pint jars, leaving at least 1/2" headspace. Wipe rims clean and place lids and rings on fingertight. Process in a water bath canner at a rolling boil for 15 minutes.
After processing, remove jars from canner and place on a towel to cool. Loosen or remove rings and check for seal. Store in a cool dark place for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.