Poached Quince Galette

Some hunt for the elusive pair of shoes; come the colder months I keep my eyes peeled for quince.

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Besides the rarity (which we all know significantly increases attractiveness–sort of a “playing hard to get” theory), quince have a good backstory. The Romans would stuff them into jars and pour over honey, where their tannic, acrid fruit would soften over time, producing both a candied fruit and a fragrant syrup.  I’ve even read that they may have been the fruit that got Adam and Eve cast out of the garden of Eden (though since you can’t eat quince raw, that story may be, perhaps, apocryphal.  Straight off the tree, in fact, I doubt it would have been all that tempting). Quince are also, surprisingly, the fruit that originated the marmalade (the Portuguese name for the fruit is marmelo) and you may have seen it at the cheese counter in the form of membrillo, which pairs perfectly with manchego. (Yes, this may be ringing a bell: I blogged about making membrillo two years ago. I’ll spare you my reminiscing about Spain right now, which membrillo always induces).

Nonetheless, perhaps the extra work to prepare quince today, vis-a-vis other fruits, has made them fall out of favor, or perhaps it’s that they are not so photogenic. If you saw it in a fruit bowl, you’d probably leave it there. I showed one to my son, who guessed it was an apple or pear, which is not far off, as they are in the same family.  But I had to stop him when he tried to filch an uncooked slice and was put off the fruit for good.

Poached Quince Galette (1 of 12)

Poached Quince Galette (2 of 12)

So yes, you’ll often find that you need to poach quince before using it.  While this is a dreaded extra step, it’s quite easy:  just put in the oven for a few hours and relax while your home fills with a warm perfume.  The poached slices keep in their fragrant syrup for around two weeks in the fridge, so you can really space things out.  Prepping the quince is a bit tricky–while much like slicing apples, the seeded core of the quince is hard and must be cut out.  This, along with the slicing, must be done gently–not surgery here, but not as quick as slicing apples for pie.  The flesh is slightly grainy (only when raw) and the slices otherwise have a tendency to break on you.  Imagine a very dry apple.  Nonetheless, this is mainly an aesthetic consideration, and isn’t meant to scare you off!  The fruit is sweet, supple, and a lovely rosy hue when cooked.  It’s going to look pretty, and taste great, no matter what.

Poached Quince Galette (3 of 12)

Poached Quince Galette (7 of 12)

I simply spiraled the quince slices on a rolled out piece of pie dough, and folded the edges over to make a rustic galette.  (Galette:  the fancy sounding but much more relaxed version of pie–herehere, here, and way back here).  We brought this to a friend’s for brunch where it was happily received.  While you might have to explain again what quince is if you do the same, you’ll find that while unusual it’s readily approachable and easy to love.  Extra poached quince could be spooned over oatmeal, eaten straight, or used in other recipes–such as this Gingerbread Quince Upside-Down Cake from the lovely Apartment 2B Baking Co., which I made for New Year’s Eve.

Poached Quince Galette (9 of 12)

And on that note, Happy New Year!

Poached Quince Galette (12 of 12)

Poached Quince Galette
Ingredients
  • Poached Quince (makes extra)
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 3c water
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 1t vanilla extract
  • 4 medium quinces (1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and sliced.
  • Galette
  • [url href=”https://threecleversisters.com/2011/07/22/perfect-pie-crust-by-hand/”%5D1 disc of pie dough[/url]–use your favorite. (I used spelt flour mixed with all-purpose here).
  • Poached quince (from above)
  • 2T sugar
  • melted butter or half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 T sugar (preferably sanding or turbinado sugar)
Instructions
Poached Quince
  1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  2. Put all ingredients into a baking dish and cover with foil or a lid, and bake for 1 1/2 hours until rosy and tender. Your kitchen will be warm and perfumed.
  3. Let cool and store the quince in its poaching liquid.
Galette
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Roll the pie dough into a 14-inch circle. Starting in the middle, arrange the quince slices in a spiral. When you have a rough 1 1/2 to 2 inch border, fold this over. (It’s going to overlap here and there and double over itself–that’s fine).
  3. Brush the crust with melted butter, cream, or half-and-half and sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Bake on the bottom of the oven for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

 

Membrillo (Quince Paste)

Some foods look as unusual as they sound, such as…quince?

I didn’t know much more about quince than having seen the odd photo in an old cookbook here and there…and odd is the right word.  It looked rather unappetizing.  A strange hybrid of a pear and an apple, a light green almost like an unripe granny smith.  I wasn’t particularly interested in trying it, but that was fine because it’s not as if I was happening upon  baskets and baskets of them.

Qunice for membrillo

When I studied abroad in Spain, I finally tried quince in the form of membrillo paste.  I was just as suspicious of this sliceable jelly as I was of the fruit, and especially of eating it with cheese.  But, as my friend Amber would tease me when we were there, all you had to do to get me to try something was to remind me that it was the “local specialty.”  (Although that’s true, I didn’t eat jamon serrano for the first few months I was there because I had decided for some reason I didn’t “eat” pork.  Yes, that was stupid).  Though it shouldn’t have been a surprise, I was amazed to find that membrillo pairs perfectly with my favorite Spanish cheese, manchego (a cheese that fortunately is not too hard to come by in the US–as far as imported cheeses go at least).

Now of course hunting down some “weird” fruit is just the kind of thing I like to do, and the fact that membrillo is something that reminds me of my “international woman of mystery” days only upped the ante for me.

What’s more, the fact that I have been looking for quince for over a year turned this hunt into something approaching a quest.  Julia suggested I check at local orchards, and lo and behold, I noticed that one of our apple u-pick options also sold quince!  Off we went to Westwood Farms!

So in addition to 20lb of apples (post(s?) forthcoming), I grabbed 4 pounds of quince (quinces?  What is the plural?  Who knows).  Since I’ve been a little fixated on this whole membrillo paste thing, I decided to make up a double batch.  It’s usually not advisable to double batches of fruit preserves, as you have less surface area to evaporate excess moisture, and this is all the more true when it comes to simmering something down into a paste.  And, it turned out to be a problem, but one that was easily remedied:  I split my oh-so-slowly cooking puree between two pans when I started to despair of ever leaving the kitchen, and that helped things along tremendously.  (I also stirred a lot, even at the beginning when it was not necessary, as this supposedly encourages evaporation).

You’ll notice that though the raw fruit (which is quite astringent and not for eating fresh) is pale green and white inside, the paste is brown.  According to Linda Ziedrich, this is a result of oxidation.  Mine did not transform into the rich burnished red that you’ll see sometimes with membrillo, but it still took on an appealing rosy brown hue.  And the homemade product was so much better than anything I’ve bought in stores–the intense, sweet paste released floral notes that I’d never noticed before.

Membrillo paste--sliced

It’s amazing to me that you can cook fruit down into a sliceable paste like this.  But I’m more amazed that I now have several slabs of homemade membrillo in my fridge (where it should keep several months).  I may have overdone it a bit in making a double batch, as I have a LOT.  On the other hand, as part of a bocadillo (sandwich) made with Spanish ham and manchego on a french bread bun, I think it could go rather fast.

Membrillo Paste, just pureed

Membrillo paste, almost done cooking

Membrillo (quince paste/quince cheese), adapted from Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves,

  • 2lb quince (about 3; mine were huge so I needed even less)
  • 1 cup of water (I used water to cover since I had doubled the recipe)
  • 2 cups sugar

Rub any white fuzz off of the quince–this down mostly comes off when the fruit is ripe but some may remain.

Quarter the fruit (no need to peel) and cut out the blossom end.  Simmer with the water for about 20 minutes until soft.  Let cool slightly.  You can now continue with the recipe or let stand for 8-12 hours with the lid off, which can help along the oxidation process (and bring out that rich red color; I let stand about 8 hours).

When you are ready to continue, cut the seeds out of the fruit and puree using a food mill, an immersion blender, or a food processor.  (I used a food mill, assuming it would separate out the seeds for me.  Not exactly–although this was mostly successful, a few seeds had softened so much they too passed through the food mill.  Just a warning).

Add the sugar, bring to a simmer, and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Continue to simmer, cooking gently and stirring from time to time at the start and more and more frequently.  (Note that stirring helps with evaporation).  At the end you’ll need to stir constantly to prevent scorching and burning.  Ziedrich notes that it will be so thick you’ll have to hold the pan while you stir at the end, which was true for me too.  See my photos, and how rather than a liquid the almost finished paste moved together as a single mass.  This took almost 2 hours in total, though it probably could have gone faster had I not doubled the recipe.

Pour the paste into an 8 x 8 pan lined with parchment paper, and allow to cool.  I then put it in an oven on its lowest setting for about an hour, leaving the door ajar, and then allowed it to continue to dry overnight in the oven (turned off!). Any dry, warm spot will do.   When the paste is dry, put it in a heavy plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.

Notes:  I loved Ziedrich’s recipe, which has ideas for variations using cardamom or rose water (how’s that for playing up the floral notes?)  Another great resource for making membrillo, with some excellent troubleshooting tips that I luckily did not need, is over at Simply Recipes.

You can also bake with quince.  If I get my hands on any more specimens, I will try one of these options from Martha Stewart Living.