[Sca-cooks] Ripening quinces
talana1 at hotmail.com
Sun Oct 11 18:30:49 PDT 2009
Now that i've had a chance to look through my cookbooks (a lovely way to spend a chilly, Sunday afternoon), I have some more thoughts that might be helpful:
The recipe I use is from John Murrell's "A Daily Exercise for Ladies and Gentlewomen" and requires equal weights of quinces and sugar. Murrell does not specify the ripeness of the quinces, but I first ran across this recipe via the redaction in Lorwin's "Dining With William Shakespeare," which calls for "fragrant quinces." She also reduced the sugar content to 1 cup per 2.5 pounds of fruit. I found I preferrred Murrell's recipe to hers, but I did stay with her recommendation of fully ripe fruit.
Some recipes work better with greener fruit. My grandmother remembers using quinces and apples to make jellies, rather than commercial pectin. Because fruit has more pectin the greener it is, it makes sense to use green quinces if you're making a jelly or preserve with a low-pectin fruit. "The Sensible Cook," a 17th-century Dutch source, contains a recipe for candying quinces, and specifically requires that the quinces be "not too yellow or ripe" and "freshly picked." Since riper fruit will break down more quickly with cooking, which you do not want when candying fruit, greener is better.
That quicker break-down is part of why I prefer riper fruit. Also, the riper the quince, the more flavor it has, which is likely why the quince wine recipe from Farley's "Art of London Cookery" calls for fully ripe quinces. Don't worry, the ripe fruit has sufficient pectin to allow your paste to set firmly.
In Borella's "The Court and Country Confecitoner" (1770) the quince paste recipe reads "Let your quinces be full ripe." This recipe is on Ivan Day's website, as are some good photos of ripe quinces, at: http://www.historicfood.com/Quinces%20Recipe.htm
Hope this helps.
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