|Last quinces on the tree on 24th November|
|Part of the main quince harvest in October|
As for the medlars, I'm with him... we'll return to them for their one good point later, but for now it's the turn of the quinces
|"We're agreed that Giles Coren is a semi-extinct food critic"|
|Flowers and fruits of Japanese quince or Chaenomeles japonica|
Okay, back to the real quinces. My quince tree is very vigorous - its response to any type of pruning, even brutal (yes, that's you I'm talking about, Gordon), is to promptly double in size- it doesn't have any pollination issues, it flowers quite late so it doesn't have any frost issues (you know, where fruits which have just formed are damaged, sometimes resulting in no crop at all that year) and it usually produces an overwhelmingly enormous crop of fruit. If there's a dry spell followed by a lot of rain the fruit may swell up too quickly and split and start to go bad, but in a consistently wet (or dry) summer this doesn't happen much.
|Mould caused by cracking|
Nigella Lawson has a good but strange-sounding recipe in "How to Eat" for baked quinces where you peel and core them (Nigella does warn that "these fruits are rock-hard and coring and quartering takes strength") then bung everything - including the trimmings -in the dish with a good slosh of muscat sweet wine. But this is good in the end and the quinces take on that wonderful rich ruby colour (or "glorious burnished terracotta" to Nigella) which foodies rave about. Also baked quinces with pomegranate seeds in "Feast", equally delicious
What I usually do is cut the quinces into halves (or quarters if I'm feeling strong), cook them in the pressure cooker for about 15 mins (or in a normal pan for a lot longer - maybe an hour) then make either quince jelly or jam or quince cheese or membrillo (as they call it in Spain).
|Cooked quince put through a mouli ready for the next stage of membrillo making|
But we haven't finished yet - when "you can see the bottom of the pan as you draw the wooden spoon through the mixture" (as the books say) or you're bored with the whole process or your hand is burnt with molten jam, you can either put the mixture into small jars or (more authentically but with a risk of future mould spots) pour it into trays lined with greaseproof paper and dry it off further. Then cut it into squares and dust with sugar, pack in boxes. Jane Grigson in her learned "Fruit Book" says the cooking can take seven hours!
Or you could just pile them up attractively
Or leave them on neighbours' doorsteps under cover of dark
Or wait for me to give you a pot of jelly or jam or membrillo. Don't worry - I always scrape any visible mould off first
Or make quince vodka
Or make quince chutney
If you've only read this far to hear the medlars' redeeming feature, it's that their uncannily visually accurate nickname is "dogs' bottoms". Even Jane Grigson in "Fruit" again admits that "the medlar has long been the happy target of jokes in much of Europe". How do we know the medlar was that happy about it though?
|"Go on then, laugh at us, see if we care"|