Quince and saffron

It’s quince season and our trees have produced an exceptional harvest this year because of the warm and damp summer so I’m being extra focused on making the most of them. If you’re not familiar with quinces think of an enormous and very hard yellow pear. You need to cook them as they’re too hard to eat raw but they have a lovely flavour and match well with both apples and pears.

A quince in the hand is worth… cooking.

Quince crumble extra

I made this recipe up on the fly and it was so successful I decided to write it up. Feel free to replace the crumble topping with one of your own, this one is adapted from one on the BBC food website for a damson apple crumble.

Ingredients

  • 2 good sized quinces
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4-6 apples – I used Peasegood Nonsuches which are of a floury type
  • 1-2 points off a star anise
  • Saffron – I used a good teaspoon full
  • 200 gm flour
  • 125 gm butter
  • 120 gm brown sugar
  • 50 gm ground almonds (or another nut, walnuts, chestnuts or hazels would probably work well)

Instructions

  1. Start by preparing the quinces. Please note that quince are pretty hard, be careful and ensure you have a strong and sharp kitchen knife as a blunt knife can slip on the hard centre.
    1. Wash them to remove the fluff and anything else
    2. Quarter them lengthwise.
    3. Cut out the core.
    4. Slice each quarter lengthwise again.
  2. Toast the saffron briefly in a dry pan (no oil) and then in a mortar tap gently with the pestle until the saffron is broken up. Don’t grind it hard or you’ll lose half of it to the mortar.
  3. Put the water, quinces, saffron and anise into a pan and parboil until the quinces are starting to soften. We need to give them a head start on the apples as they generally take a while to cook. I estimate 5-10 minutes. While they are cooking…
  4. Slice the apples up as you did the quinces.
  5. Make up the crumble topping by
    1. Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and
    2. Chop the butter into pieces and then rub through the dry ingredients until we’ll combined. Or if you don’t like getting your hands dirty you could blend in a food processor.
  6. Once your quinces are starting to soften remove from the heat and fetch out the anise. Throw the quinces and liquid into a casserole dish with the apples and stir gently.
  7. Top with the crumble mix.
  8. Cook in a 180 degree oven until done. (30 minutes).

Quince paste

We’ve been making quince paste every year and I generally have a couple of pieces when it’s just done and then before I know it it’s all gone and is time to make more. I diverged from the recipe I have generally used this year and it’s been very successful and much easier so I thought that I would share it.

Ingredients

  • 7-8 good sized quinces
  • Up to 2 kg sugar or honey or combined of both
  • Water
  • Whole Spices: saffron, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, cardamom pods… your favourites

Instructions

  1. Peel quinces and remove any bad spots.
  2. Quarter them lengthwise (again being very careful and using a large sharp knife) and cut out the core.
  3. chop them into medium sized pieces, I like to cut each quarter again not eights and then chop these into about five. They end up about 1.5-2 cm squares.
  4. Toss them in a large pot and just about cover with water.
  5. Boil gently until the quinces are very soft but have not started breaking up.
  6. Tip off as much excess water as you can, either by sieving or using the lid to filter.
  7. Mash the quinces into mush or put through a food processor to be lump free.
  8. Weigh your mush, rinse the pot you boiled it in and return the quince to the pot.
  9. Now find 85% of your mush quantity and add this much sugar, honey or both combined to the quince mush.
  10. Add any spices. For cinnamon stick break them in half and throw them in. Saffron should be lightly toasted in a dry pan and then crushed gently. Clove, cardamom and anise can go in whole.
  11. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently with a long wooden spoon as it thickens. It will take 2-3 hours to cook and you will need to reduce the heat as it gets thicker. Watch out as it will sputter burning hot sugary stuff at you when angry.
  12. As it thickens it will turn from the yellow mush to a garnet. You can tell it’s ready in two ways: draw your spoon from one side of the pot to another, you should briefly see the bottom of the pot, this shows that it is thick enough. Another test, scoop up a bit on your wooden spoon and drop it in the centre, it will form a blob on the top I.e. it’s not immediately combining with the body of the paste.
  13. Prepare 2 or three dishes for the past by lining them with baking paper. They don’t need to be very deep, I use baking trays with a 2 cm wall.
  14. Tip the paste into the prepared dish and smooth out, removing any solids (spices) as you can. You should have to smear it around to get it even as it’s so thick by this stage. Don’t make it more than about 10mm thick or it will be slow to set.
  15. Leave it a day or two to dry out on top then flip it to dry the bottom. Once it’s dry enough you can slice it into squares and put it in containers with something like baking paper, honey wrap or silicone sheets to stop them all from resticking to each other.