I've been quincing out lately, because the case I bought is starting to show signs of age. There are brown blooms on a few of them, so I've decided to begin the quince onslaught and preserve my way through the rest of them. And really, it's a delight to do so. I'm past the preserving craze, well into the winter phase, so I welcome the return to slaving over a hot pot every day.
This quince candy was worth every minute I spent on it. Though it took a few hours to make, it was just to stir it every so often and check up on it. The most work was the peeling and coring. Quinces are hard! And doing this is a chore. And you really want to make sure you do a good job, because if you leave in some core bits they will turn into little piece of gravel once cooked. So be warned.
When folks refer to quince candy they usually mean the cooked paste of the pulp, like membrillo, that has sat and dried. Once dried, you can cut it up and roll it in sugar. It was a traditional Dutch treat that was enjoyed here in the Hudson Valley by the settlers back in the 1700s. It's also a traditional treat all over the world. I made it last year, along with these other jellies. I have a thing for jelly, as you may have noticed. But this candy is a little different, somewhat similar to the quince in red wine and honey that I made a few weeks ago.
The quince is peeled, cored and cut into small, squarish chunks. Then it is simmered in a syrup of sugar and water until all the water has cooked away and the quince chunks have soaked up all the sugar, become soft and chewy, and taken on their trademark rosy hue. I could eat about ten or so pieces of this in a sitting. The texture is just perfectly chewy. The outside gets slightly tough and yields to inner softness once a molar presses it just so. They are very sweet and really are candy, not preserves. They could stay in the fridge a long time, if you could resist them. I would recommend this as a sumptuous addition to a holiday cheese plate. Or as a dessert, served in a bowl alongside some almonds.
adapted from Candied Quince, by Elizabeth LaBau
3 large quince, peeled, cored, cut into small, squarish chunks
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
a few whole cloves
Put everything in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat with the lid off, for about two hours. You want this to be a slow process, to ensure that nice color, and so the quince have the proper time to get soft and soak in the sugar. Keep an eye on it, stir it every so often, and make sure it doesn't boil to high or stop simmering. When it's done, let it cool. Store in the fridge in a glass container.
Mine took 2 1/2 hours, but that's because I had the lid on for the first hour. It's better if it's off. Now I know.