Quince is not one of those fruits many people encounter in their day-to-day life. Intensely astringent, it takes a rare sour tooth to enjoy biting into one. As someone who has been known to bite directly into a lemon, I can appreciate its bracing effect. Originating from the Mediterranean region, quince is thought by some to be the original forbidden fruit (although some also claim this of pomegranate…) Related to the rose, quince has long been associated with romance and it is certainly an intoxicating fruit; when ripe, it has a beautiful perfume (it smells like it should be sweet…what a tease!).
In season from October to November here in BC, I had been waiting eagerly for them to show up at the farmer’s market. These gorgeous specimens I bought are locally grown and biodynamic. When shopping, choose firm fruit that are bright yellow in colour without too many blemishes. Quince are covered in a peach like fuzz that will wipe away as you wash them.
Quince is meant for cooking. Adding to its allure, the pale flesh of the quince turns a ruby colour with long, slow cooking. Just like tayberries, their high natural pectin is delightful to jam. At our house, quince was eaten in the form of marmelada, or quince paste. In fact, our English word marmelade actually comes from the Portuguese marmelada. Quince paste is a delectible accompaniment to a charcuterie or cheese plate. Think cheese. Olives. Some good bread. A bit of wine. Heaven!
However, as the days turn cool and I am looking to warm myself up, I thought I would create an apple, ginger and quince crumble. Fruit makes a wonderful dessert and this is a beautiful way to highlight the gorgeous perfume of both of these forbidden fruit.
Quince, Apple and Ginger Crumble
Because quince are so firm, it is nice to poach them with ginger and honey before layering with apples.
2 quince, peeled, cored and quartered
1 inch chunk of ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4 cm slices
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp honey
4 small (or 2 large) crisp apples, like gala, cored and sliced
1 tbsp butter
Ground cardomom, to taste
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup organic milk
Place quince in a medium sauce pan with enough water to cover. Add cinnamon, honey and ginger and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and allow to cook until the quince soften, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the oats, brown sugar and milk in a small bowl and allow to sit so the oats can absorb the milk. Slice apples thinly (skin on or off as you please). Lightly butter a 9 inch pie plate.
When the quince are soft, slice (take care! Use a fork to handle the hot fruit) and then layer the quince with the apple in the pie plate. Dot with the butter and sprinkle with as much cardamon as you like. Then sprinkle the hydrated oats over the fruit.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until crumble topping is golden brown. Enjoy!
P.S. Edible Vancouver published a great recipe for quince liqueur last year. Well worth a try!