11.10.09 Quince a la Alice

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It is thought that the quince—and not the apple—is actually the fruit being referred to in the Song of Solomon; the one that caused Atalanta to pause in her fateful race; perhaps even the fruit of paradise. Today, in this country, the quince is not widely known, and is available primarily at specialty or farmers markets. It ripens in September and October but can often be found through December. The quince's gorgeous perfume, sweet and floral, belies its astringent taste and hard texture, which is sometimes covered with a sparse, velvety fur. But roasted, baked or stewed and always sweetened, quince takes on a rich, rosy color and a deliciously complex flavor, like an apple or pear but with hints of guava and pineapple. Most often seen as a paste to accompany Manchego cheese or in jams and jellies, Alice Waters offers this simple poaching recipe.
These lovely pink slices are delicious with yoghurt, cake or cream. The syrup can be used in cocktails or adult sodas. Added bonus: Quinces are a good source of vitamin C.
 

Poached Quinces

from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Fruit
makes 5 cups
  • — 2 cups sugar
  • — 6 cups water
  • — 2 pounds quinces (about 4 medium)
  • — 1/2 vanilla bean
  • — 1/2 lemon sliced

Combine the sugar and water in a 4-quart pot, bring to a boil and simmer slowly until sugar is dissolved.

Quarter, peel and core the quinces and slice the quarters into 1/4"-thick wedges. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sugar syrup. Add the bean pod, the lemon slices and the quince to the syrup. To keep the fruit submerged as it cooks, cover the surface of the poaching fruit with a round of parchment paper and weigh it down with a plate. Simmer slowly, until the quinces are tender; about 45 minutes.

You can process this fruit in prepared jars for storage, or simply ladle it into clean jars, cool and keep refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 2 weeks.

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