Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cutting a Quince


Can you believe a fruit fly got on my nice picture?

A week or two ago I went for a winding ride, which is always a pleasure this time of year. The clouds were high and puffy, and the sun perfectly warm, the breeze perfectly cool, and best of all, my son, now three years old, fell asleep as we drove. The nap is a rarity these days, but for the most part, it's still very welcome. You know when you are driving and you sort of think you know where you're going, but you couldn't say precisely the way you were going? I knew where I wanted to end up, but I was guessing at the turns I was taking. Well, all the turns I took got me to where I was going in a perfect sort of way, sort of the way you wish life went all the time. I pulled into the driveway that has a small sign saying, Locust Grove Fruit Farm. No one was there, and I was able to get out and take in the view of the Hudson, which stretched out below the fruit tree lined hill. 

I let a few minutes pass before I called the number to reach someone. They answer the phone like it's their home, which it is, and I say I'm down by the barn, to buy quinces. There's some confusion even though I've called ahead, as they're older and the cell phone doesn't have the best sound. "She wants to buy quinces!" I hear the woman say loudly, and I can tell the man, her husband, finally gets it, and says he'll be right there. I've talked to the whole family, but I've talked with her the most, and we've chatted about canning, mostly. "Most people don't want to talk about canning these days," she told me, wistfully, "but I hear it's changing."

I squint in the sun at all the trees around me. When he arrives a few slow minutes later, he leads me into the barn and is quite proud to show me his quinces. "Look at these. Amazing, aren't they?" he asks, and I agree. They are gorgeous, sweet-smelling quinces, covered with a bit of fuzz, half green, a bit of yellow shining through. "People don't realize how hard this all is," he says, waving his hand at the bins of apples and quinces. We talk some more, and he shows me some pears in the large cooler, and we agree we both like Bartletts better than Boscs. I notice a few pints of raspberries off to the side, and ask if there are any more. "Nope," he says, and when I ask to buy them, he says,"they're expensive." I take them anyway, as I never got enough of them this year.

He carries the forty-pound box out to my car, though it's probably not as easy as it once was. He gives me two Bartlett pears to eat. I give him a jar of jam for his wife. As I drive home, my son still sleeping, the smell of the quinces fills the slightly hot car. I think about the quince jam I'm going to make, the jelly, and of course, some membrillo. I think of how long those quince trees have been producing; the farm has been working since 1820! It makes me feel like I've got time in a box, sweet smelling time, and I'm going home to make it last even longer.




I know that lately there is a lot of interest in quinces, although some people never stopped being interested in them. One of the daunting things about quinces is that they are so hard, you sometimes wonder how to approach them. I've been chopping up quite a few of these, and this is how I do it. How much do you love quinces? What are you making with them? Leave a link, or recipe, or both!

32 comments:

  1. I wish I were making something with them, sigh.

    There is a giant quince tree near me on a busy busy street in the city of Toronto. Its huge and I could never figure out how I would pick them if I worked up the courage to knock on the door to ask if I could.

    Working on a plan for next year :)

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  2. Beautiful story Julia! Sounds like a perfect day. I still haven't tried making anything with quince. Perhaps next year when I get my canning on again!

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  3. I've never had a quince, never even seen one at the numerous farmer markets around. I sure want to look into it now... great video, too! Your voice is as I imagined it, strange since I feel like I know you. If I ever play with quince, I'll think of you the whole while.

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  4. I just saw some quince yesterday at a supermarket down here in DC! Weird since I never ever see them at a 'normal' market at home.

    Sounds like it was a fabulous day: and 40 lbs! You go, girl.

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  5. Laura - Wow! That's amazing. Do the owners ever pick them? I understand your trepidation, but quinces might just push me over the boundary of comfort!

    Meg - Thanks, my dear! If you don't have your canning on now, then I am wondering what it will look like when you do!

    Rebecca - Isn't that funny, when you hear someone's voice that you've never met? Especially when you feel like you've met a million times? ; )

    Kaela - Really? Totes weird! Did you buy some to pack in your carry on? Enjoy D.C.! I'm going to be here, rocking the forty.

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  6. Really lovely post, Julia. Very evocative of the end of summer. I had not realized that we had quinces growing around here - next year I'll seek some out as I love membrillo and quince jam. Our neighbors in Berkeley had a quince tree that they were more than happy for me to pick from since they never did anything with it. They also gifted me a small sheaf of quince recipes that one of their neighbors had gathered for them - none of them are for preserves - more on the savory side but I'm happy to share if you're interested.

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  7. I love your video! How fun to hear and see (part of) you!

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  8. I'm going to make apple-quince-rosehip jelly because I need to use them all up.

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  9. theres a few really fantastic things going on in this video...that orange chair! hey...that's my knife! love the light of the window! And who doesn't love quince paste? I buy huge cans at the asian import store, we pop out little flower shapes using japanese garnish thingys.

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  10. I have never ever seen or heard of this fruit before! Now that I like canning and go on canning sites I hear about them a lot! I'm in Sudbury Ontario and will now keep a look out for these! I wonder what they taste like!

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  11. I love your video. Also, it's so fun to hear your voice after so long reading your blog (not that your blog doesn't capture your "voice" but in another way).

    As for naps in the car--they are nice when they happen, but it's usually a net net for us because bedtime gets so delayed as a result!

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  12. I wish I saw this last night! I made quince apple chutney and just about took off my thumb coring them!

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  13. Thank you for posting this video, Julia! I had no idea about the blossom-end inhibiting pectin, I always learn so much from you :)

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  14. Eve - How lucky was that! You must miss the abundance of California sometimes. Not that we're not blessed as well. You just never see avocados lining the street here, or lemons...I would love to see those recipes! Are they on your blog??

    Marisa - Thank you!! I was lucky that this came out so well. Whew!

    Peter - I was wondering what you were going to do with your cache of quince...

    Momkat9090 - I am so in love with that chair, I refuse to get rid of it, even though it's broken. I was working in the computer room because the light is so good there, and it's so bad in the kitchen. And isn't that knife great? It's all I use! Thanks for the visit!

    Anon - Oh, I hope you try one! They are really beautiful things. Floral and citrusy, and appleish all at once. I believe they can grow in your area; they are pretty hardy. Ask around at your local orchards!

    Sara - Thanks!! Isn't hearing someone's voice for the first time weird? Actually, it's still weird to me!

    And yes, the nap time is not welcome when it bumps up bed time. I don't allow any naps after 1 p.m., otherwise my night is shot!

    Onegreentomato- Ouch! I hope you were okay. They are so hard! Now you are prepared for the next batch. That chutney sounds good...

    Samantha - Awww, thanks, Samantha! Good to hear from you!

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  15. I am looking forward to making quince jam and preserves again this year. I am intrigued by the savory recipes, but I find it difficult to find a vegetarian recipe. Adapting some of the North African stews (and similar quince-laden cuisines) has confounded me. I also just like having them in the kitchen to breathe in their intoxicating fragrance.
    ps the fly makes the photo!

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  16. I'm so glad you made a video, Jules. Especially about something so confounding as cutting quince. Now I need to get one of those little melon ballers. And that orange chair is the best.

    Even before the vid, though, the post is just lovely. A beautifully written story.

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  17. ValHalla - Hmmm. That's an interesting conundrum that I hadn't come across. Let me know what you find. How about a chutney? They are handy for the intoxicating smell, it's true!
    p.s. you know, you're right about that fly!

    Shae - Thank you! I don't know what possessed me, except for that they are indeed confounding to cut! So: I think a regular melon baller would do just fine. I think I just like saying: teeny tiny melon baller. And thank you for the compliment on my story. It felt good to write. : )

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  18. Julia, I could totally picture you and the older farming couple talking about quince. Great story.

    We used to have a beautiful quince bush and I never knew what to do with the fruit, though I always treasured the beautiful blossoms. I wish you'd been there to help then;) Great video. SO fun!

    -E

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  19. Fun to hear your voice, Julia - wish you were closer!

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  20. Very helpful-- thank you. I am psyched about the quince I am going to be getting next week from a local orchard. I'm planning to make a few things but have never used them before.

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  21. Yummy Supper - Thanks, Erin! I really have to get one of those flowering quince bushes; the flowers are so pretty. The fruits aren't quite as nice as the tree quinces, but they still make a nice jelly!

    Sustainable Eats - I know! I feel the same way, Annette!

    Greenishmonkeys - Yay! How nice that you can get some local ones. Wonder what you'll make...

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  22. This year I picked about a half bushel from the tree I planted in the yard a few years ago. I gave half away to ladies at the church (I suspect a few of them tossed the quinces after imagining them like apples) and a few to a neighbor. So far I made a quince/cranberry chutney as always adding my own variations in spices etc. I hope to enjoy it with turkey and roast pork. I have the remaining few and will either try a liqueur or (and/or) poached spiced quince. Thanks for the tips - cutting a quince is the hardest part.

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  23. Anon - Oh, so there's hope for my three little quince trees that I just planted?? Good news. Do you do anything to them, as far as treatment for bugs and disease?

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  24. Been away, so a little late to the chopping board! Love your video and thrilled as is everyone else to hear your voice, see your chair and admire your knife. Perhaps next time a little elbow? We could get to see the real you bit by bit I've still got some quinces knocking about needing attention. Love the blossom end tip too x

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  25. You make it look so easy!! I am tackling my Quince this week ;)

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  26. Gloria - It's always great to hear from you, whenever it is! What should my next video be? Making a cocktail with a bit of the elbow showing?

    Allison - Good luck! You have so much to work with, I'm sure you'll be a champ in no time.

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  27. I planted a quince in my yard 16 months ago. It was beautiful in the spring this year, covered with fat white blossoms. There are now 3 fruits growing up at the top. I watch them from my kitchen window. I can't wait for them to be grown up! I'll use your lovely video when it's time for them to surrender to my knife.

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  28. Oh, wow! That sounds so exciting! My little trees are still thin little wisps with nary a blossom this year. But next year, I have my fingers crossed!

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  29. Hey, here I am again, re-watching your video because I just picked my three beautiful quince! Since I only have three I'm going to poach them with vanilla and then turn the poaching liquid into something yummy. I'm not yet sure what -- all will be revealed in the fullness of time! Thanks again for the "how-to".

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    Replies
    1. Congrats!! That sounds like a wonderful way to prepare your special three quinces! I had one, very oddly shaped, apple this year, and it was the best apple I've ever tasted. Here's to more bounty next year!

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    2. Do you know the nursery rhyme "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear? This was a childhood favourite and includes the line, "they dined on mince and slices of quince", so the word was familiar to me from a very young age. However, I never actually knew or thought about what a quince is...
      Until I married a Swiss whose mother has a quince tree in her garden and each year, would prepare various delicacies. Of course, there came a year of glut and a couple of bags of quinces made their way to our kitchen. For hours we boiled these stubborn, hard fruit, and eventually managed to get a couple of jars of jelly out of them - which turned out to be my eldest daughter's favourite jam of all time! After that, I never really bothered with them, just too much trouble, until I was tempted once again, and things were quick and easy!! Since then I've made various quince dishes, using them to accompany autumn pork, especially as a chutney. Now I know there are different kinds, too. Ours are bright yellow with a very irregular, nubby surface that isn't easy to peel, but as long as they're ripe, I can now enjoy the scent they impart in my living room before I cook them, as well as during cooking and on the tastebuds later on!

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    3. I do know that nursery rhyme! (see: http://hitchhikingtoheaven.com/2010/11/quince-orange-cardamom-marmalade.html)

      I'm glad you are enjoying your quince all the time now!

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