The illustration of the quince (cydonia oblonga) was archived by Oldbookillustrations.com, taken from Dictionnaire encyclopédique Trousset, also known as the Trousset encyclopedia, Paris, 1886 – 1891.
As quince ripen in the autumn, filling out like mishapen apples; they go from apple-green to pear-yellow. The perfume of quince cooking reminds me of roses, the flavor bright, sharp and floral. They are very tart and firm. The quince I use are all from ornamantal shurbs – the fruit is harder and smaller than the cultivated friut producing stock, but just as wonderful to discover and to cook.
High in pectin, they are great for jam, jelly. The English make quince pudding. They can be peeled, then roasted, baked or stewed, added to apple pies, and applesauces. The flesh of the fruit turns deep pink to red after a long cooking time.
Because my quince are so firm, I prefer to juice them whole. Using a steam juicer means I don’t grind up the seeds. A little research yields the warning that the seeds have a degree of toxicity. The seeds contain nitriles (RCN), common to the rose family. But the seeds are only likely to be toxic if you consume a large quantity.
You can cook the quince down in just enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, stirring, then simmer till the mixture takes on the characteristic quince golden-pink hue. By this time the pieces of fruit should be soft. Mash them as they soften, then strain, pushing the fruit pulp through.
Making Quince Curd
Fruit curds are commonly made with citrus juices, the acid helps set the sugar, eggs and liquid into the voluptous creamy filling. Lemon curds are found on supermarket shelves but they never have the brightness of freshly made.
1 c diced quince or 3 oz pure quince juice
1/2 c granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
¼ # (1 stick) sweet butter (cut into small pieces)
optional: zest of 1/4 grapefruit or ½ lemon or orange (finely shredded)
Prepare the quince juice/puree.
Place the sugar, and egg yolks in a non reactive pot, stirring to combine before you heat it. When well-blended stir in the remaining ingredients except the zest.
Cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly until thickened (it will have the viscosity of a hollandaise sauce) – thickly coating the back of a wooden spoon. This will take just couple minutes. If you have a good instant read thermometer you can measure – the finished curd will register 196. It will still be liquid enough to pour (but will thicken when cooled). Do not let it boil or the liquid will curdle.
Strain to remove any particles of egg and to get a silky texture. Add the zest at the end. Store in a clean jar with a tight fitting lid. Quince curd will be at its freshest for 3 weeks. It freezes well.
Use quince curd as a filling for tartlets (topped with a little whipped crème fraiche and a shaving of candied ginger), or folded into whipped cream or Italian meringue to fill sponge cakes. Save your egg whites to make meringue shells – you can fill them with a dollop of quince curd for an incredibly easy, elegant dessert.