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Not to be Forgotten


To make paste of quinces

To make paste of quinces: first boil your quinces whole, and when they are soft pare them and cut the quince from the core; then take the finest sugar you can get finely beaten and searced, and put in a little rosewater and boil it together till it be thick; then put in the cut quinces and so boil hem together till it be stiff enough to mould, and when it is cold then roll it and print it. A pound of quinces will take a pound of sugar or near thereabouts.

The English Housewife, 1615
Gervase Markham


Nancy wanted to paint quinces. Of course she did. Just look at them so beautiful and sexy and weird, cousin of the apple, odd woody fruit, inedible raw, transformed utterly by cooking to become fragrant, rose colored, and sweet.

Quince is hardly used anymore in the U.S., but we think it is primo territory for “€œnot to be forgotten.” I hope more farmers will grow them and bring them back.

Quince fell out of use probably because they are not a fast and easy fruit. They do not bring quick They do not bring quick gratification.  You cannot crunch into a quince like an apple or pack it in a lunch.  In fact, you cannot eat it raw at all. But with the addition of sugar and cooking, quince becomes a joy, transforming in color from to gold and pink.

When Nancy sent me this image, I looked up from my computer and reached across my cluttered little office of papers and books and tried to dig for the story of this fruit.  which originates in €”the Caucasus mountains--a meeting place of Europe and Asia, near Russia, Turkey and Iran.  A convergence of worlds--bounded between the Black and Caspian Seas.

Arabs and Persians and Turks have been using quince forever in both sweet and savory dishes--often with meat. The ancient Romans preserved them whole in honey and vinegar--a preparation that may be the forerunner of jam.

This is the sort of thrill of discovery I love.  When walls of my office fall away for just a brief second, and I’m flying across the globe with quince.  I realize that’s why I love history and food.  Not for the moments when I discover things that reflect the things I already know--but to learn something new and different €”to think of stewed quince and meat in an ancient Persian court, or a quince paste, like the one above in 16th century England.

Modern life cooking tip:

Make your quince jam according to taste €”but basically the same procedure explained above will work just fine.  Scrub the quinces and cook them whole, covered by water, at least one hour until they are soft.  One way is to put them in a pan in a 350 degree oven. Reserve the water.  Then do the messy work of removing skins and seeds.  Add the quince flesh to a stew pot on top of the stove, along with sugar and whatever flavorings you like, whether rosewater mentioned above or vanilla.  If you want to make quince paste stir constantly.  If you want to make quince jam, add reserved quince water as needed to get the consistency of jam. Cook until golden pink, not red, constantly stirring.

see also: To Draw a Quince

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