When my niece Anna was in kindergarten, her teacher told her there was no such thing as fairies.
Her other Aunt, my sister Rachel, was incensed “why doesn’t she tell Anna there’s no Santa or Easter Bunny or make-believe!!!”. I’m with Rachel. I think magic and make-believe are important and well, just fun. I think that quince remind me that God is creative and has a sense of fun. Why else would there be such a fruit?
Lenore from EVOO suggested I used quince paste in my fruit butters to thicken them without pectin. Always up for a new jam experiment, I ordered 20 pounds of quince from Oregon Quince Farm. Oregon Quince Farm is run by Terry and his wife. Terry dropped off my quince delivery at my office last Thursday. He seemed like he was in a hurry to get his other deliveries finished, until he asked me about my experience with quince. I told him I had never even seen one, only sampled quince paste. His face lit up like a boy talking about his first love. Terry described the quince preserves, quince slices and quince paste he and his wife make. He told me about Membrillo, firm quince paste that’s popular in Spain. He suggested paring Membrillo with cheese. He shared some recipes and promised to send them to me in writing when he got back to the farm. Like I’ve said before, farmers are generous with their tips. I think they want you to love what they grow as much as they do. I get it. I talk to my plants when I prune them. It makes them happy.
Armed with a new-found zeal for quince, I was unprepared for what I learned. Quince is magical, for real.
Quince is a strange fruit. Ripe quince are hard, similar to a butternut squash. The shape is not quite apple and not quite pear. The peel is a bright banana yellow and has a little bit of fuzz like peach. The pithy center resembles a pear. Chopped slices turn brown, like an apple. The scent is similar to a floral pumpkin. In summary, quince is just quince. It seems there’s nothing like them, and that’s before you cook them.
Quince slices look the most like apple slices. Mixed with organic Turbinado sugar, the beginning quince mixture is a golden brown. But wait, that’s before the magic happens.
After simmering for half an hour, the quince changes to a bright coral color. The scent of floral pumpkin wafts through the kitchen.
After another half an hour, the quince changes to a light burgundy coral color.
The resulting quince paste is thick and fragrant….and magical.
These little beauties will be cooled then saved in the freezer for making fruit butter all winter long. And if you don’t believe me that quince is magical, at least try some Membrillo with cheese.