Monday 14 April 2008

Quince and Bergamot Fool

My very first experience of the Quince was some 20 years ago, when my beloved Hobbit and Mater Beige took me on a day-trip to Gulf Station, an heritage listed farm on the outskirts of Eastern Melbourne.

As we were walking back across the old orchard, my father cried out "Oh, look!! Quinces!! My favorite fruit!"

In order to experience whatever it was that made my father cry out in such wonder, I picked a windfall quince and promptly bit into it. (Mater Beige remembers The Hobbit doing the same thing. I have no recollection of that, nor anything after I sunk my teeth into the raw quince)

It was as if every salivary gland in my mouth not only constricted, but actually inverted back upon itself, creating a million microscopic vacuums in my mouth.

My head nearly caved in on itself, my mouth was a veritable black hole of quince-flavoured anti-matter.

It was years before I tried one again.

Maggie Beer and her quince paste were my gate-way drug back into the aromatic, sensual world of the COOKED quince.

Over the years, the quince has been derided as the Fruit of Original Sin, honoured as The Fruit of Love. g o b b l e r has a wonderful scree here about this oft maligned fruit.

So it was with wonder, and no small sense of foreboding, I bought some quinces from my local organic shop on Saturday. Heng was unable to tell me EXACTLY what type of quince it was, but I suspect it was a Smyrna, as it lacked the discernable "tropical" smell of the Pineapple quince.

After much consultation, decided on George Biron's Quince and Jasmine Fool... but as is my want, I decided to do a little tweaking to his basic recipe.

I didn't peel the quinces (3, equaling 1.4kgs uncooked) , but did core them, and cut them into random bits. These I put into my crockpot with 1/2 a bottle of Muscat, 100mls of honey and 1/2 cup raw sugar.

I left these to cook on slow for 14 hours, at which stage they had developed that succulent, meaty, ruby red goodness and my house was permeated with that indescribable warm candy aroma that is a cooked quince.

I had no Jasmine tea at home, and didn't relish fighting the Mongol Hordes at the Glen, simply for a random handful of it.

Now, I've never claimed to be a "supertaster" but I do have an uncanny ability to be able to differentiate flavours and spices in complex stews/curried/casseroles, and I **ahem** taste in colour.

I don't actually know how to describe it, but if I read a recipe, or hear someone say "I cooked the onions in OO until golden", I can taste that. And then someone might add "And then I threw in some bacon", and as I read or hear that, I can physically taste the change in my mouth and the "colour" of the flavour changes.

So, with a mouthful of the stewed quinces, I stuck my nose into my collection of teas.

I rejected the ginger and lemon, the red currant, the Rooibos tea, but as I took a big nozzie of the Earl Grey tea, and the idea took place.

Over the still-simmering quinces, I placed a stainless steel bowl and in it poured 400ml of King Island Cream, into which I threw 3 Earl Grey (Twinings, I think!) tea bags. I covered the bowl with a lid and left it to sit and steep for about 2 hours.

On removing the teabags, I squeeze a disturbingly oily brown liquid into my (very expensive) cream.

The result was a heady Bergamot aroma that married amazingly well with the quinces.

I beat the cream to stiff peaks., folded in 400 mls of custard (sans vanilla pods)

The result was an headyingly aromatic (perfumatic?) marriage.

I delicately folded the now-cooled and slightly mashed quinces through the custard mix and then drizzled the top with thick, ruby-port, life-blood deep red juice.



Anonymous said...

Loverly post Pg.
I think that as far as cooked fruit goes, you just cannot beat the quince.
By the way me & the kids flogged all the fruit off the neighborhood tree that I metioned under the pretence of a 'bike ride', for a minnie I felt like Fagen!
It is a pineapple quince so the floral bouquet of the gleaned fruit is so strong that we have to have all the windows open in the house & Its FREAKEN cold here!
The things you do for the quince!

purple goddess said...


I shall send you a pair of fingerless gloves for your next **ahem** bike ride, just so you can feel in character!

I am thinking I might have to plant a quince tree at Chez Fur, as neither of my neighborhood's seem to have the ubiquitous quince tree hanging over the local LOL's (little old lady) fence.

Even last night my house still smelled of almost-fairy-floss quince sweetness.

stickyfingers said...

Woman I reckon you go beyond Supertaster into the realms of a tasting savant - like those math genius' who see numbers as colours. That dish sounds like heaven.