where is my master, the rebel quince

It’s astounding. Quinces are fleeting. Madness takes its toll. When you realise that you’ve just come to truly love the fruit and there’s none to be found, not a damn skerrick, for a whole year. Like some kind of token gesture from Mother Nature to say sorry for ending summer, quinces appear with autumn, but unlike the terrible weather, their time with us is ridiculously brief. They’re like the Jimmy McNulty of fruit, charming but unreliable, showing up at random intervals to steal your heart then run off again. I mean, I saw them at the supermarket and a week later there were no more. I didn’t even see them at all at the vege markets this year, although I was out of town one weekend. So you have to live every fruit as if it’s your last.

Now that I’m writing all this, like I’m some kind of bearded prophet issuing a clifftop warning, it occurs to me that it’s probably not the best subject to blog on, since…by the time I get round to hitting the ‘publish’ button quince season may well be over and this post will be of no use to anyone. Seriously, last time I managed to get my hands on quinces was 2007. What luck do the rest of you guys have? Ah, well, I’ve started. Gonna plough.

If you’ve never tried quince before, think of them as a cross between an apple and pear with a hint of lemon in flavour, and like persimmon in texture. They are gorgeously fragrant and really need cooking down to be edible – they’re far too dry and wooly when raw. I thought sorbet would be a good way to showcase these subtle flavours, and actually apples or pears could be substituted for quinces in their absence, which does make this post a bit more relevant to you.

Quince Sorbet

This recipe is slightly fiddly but not too bad. It’s just something I made up, so there are probably improvements that could be made. A bit of equipment helps, as always…

3 large, firm quinces
1/3 cup sugar plus another 1/3 cup
125 mls water plus another 250 mls

Chop the quinces roughly (as per the photo above) and place in a roasting dish. They’re pretty tough little beasts, but nothing a good sharp Victorinox can’t handle. Be careful though! Sprinkle over the first 1/3 cup sugar and the 125 mls water, cover with tinfoil, and place in a 160 C oven for about 2 hours or until completely soft. Once they’ve cooled a bit, puree the lot including any juices or liquid in the roasting dish. Here I should point out that I tried pushing the puree through a sieve, and then a potato ricer, to get rid of all the skin. I think I should have peeled the fruit to begin with but this is up to you – you either get sorbet with bits in it or you don’t.

Bring the 250mls water and second measure of sugar to the boil in a pan and let it bubble away for a bit. You’re not trying to make a full on syrup, just allow the sugar to dissolve and the liquid to thicken slightly. Pour it over the quince puree and stir thoroughly. Pour into a container and freeze till solid. You may want to blast the frozen mixture in the food processor, which will make it extra smooth and creamy.

This doesn’t make an awful lot – around 600 mls. However I was just experimenting and so didn’t want litres of sorbet on my hands. You could always use more quinces and indeed, add a couple of chopped up apples to the mix to make the overall volume greater.

Because the ingredients are fairly simple, the delicate, fresh crisp apple flavour of quinces were able to shine in this sorbet. Quinces tend to run into oversweetness but the iciness of the sorbet stared it down nicely. It is truly delicious and really the only disappointment was (a) that it’ll be a long time till I can make some more and (b) the colour was a bit unimpressive, a kind of nondescript pinkish-brown. I guess I should have stuck a mint leaf on top to make it look a little nicer. I guess I’ll have to wait till next year…

Speaking of things leaving town, last night Tim and I went to see the Royal New Zealand Ballet in From Here To There, a showcase of three different modern ballet works. I love ballet so much, and try to support these guys where I can. Christopher Hampson choreographed Silhouette, the first piece. I was lucky enough to see his Romeo and Juliet many years ago, the ending of which completely slayed me in spite of the fact that I knew exactly what was going to happen. His choreography here was witty, crisp, stylish and a little camp, with plenty of good old fashioned man-leaping, the kind you normally only get at the end of story ballets. A Song In The Dark, the second work, choreographed by Andrew Simmons, was frantically beautiful and set to the glorious music of Phillip Glass. A Million Kisses To My Skin, the final piece choreographed by David Dawson was joyful, playful, and stunningly costumed. Throughout all three pieces there were incredible displays of strength, balance, flexibility, trust, and energy. The entire season finishes tonight so if you haven’t already seen it, like the quince, there’s not much you can do about it now.

Afterwards we headed to Happy bar to see Auckland rapper Tourettes reading some of his poetry. Nothing like some poetry near midnight at a dark underground bar to make you feel a bit grown up. The enchantingly friendly DJ Alphabethead started us off with some blindingly fast moves on his turntable, and then Tourettes appeared. He’s a favourite musician of mine but it was rather brilliant to have the opportunity to hear his equally excellent spoken word material, both old and new. While his words are raw like a steak in places there was also plenty of funny-because-it’s-true hilarity from Tourettes, who is so self-deprecating that he self-deprecatingly calls himself out for being so self-deprecating. It’s all brilliant stuff and if any of the above sounds vaguely interesting and you live in the Auckland region I absolutely recommend trying to catch him live, buying his albums or for starters, watching this mini doco from TVNZ 6’s The Gravy.
Title brought to you by: Opera Hunk Rufus Wainwright, who were were lucky enough to see live a few years ago, and his brooding, French-tinged tune Rebel Prince from his truly lovely album Poses.

Music while I type:

Straw Into Gold from Idina Menzel’s evergreen stunner of a debut album, Still I Can’t Be Still. I know I said it on Twitter already, but I hear this album when I listen to Florence and The Machine. Was Florence listening to this when she wrote Lungs? Well, I’d like to think so, which is a start.

Yeasayer’s Ambling Alp from their album Odd Blood. I hate the song title but gosh it’s catchy, and uplifting with it, a kind of modern equivalent to S Club 7’s Bring It All Back, but for cool people. These guys have been around for a little while so maybe it’s kind of ho-hum to bring it up now, but they really do sound a bit special and stand out from the crowd.
Next time: I made this vegan apple cake today, it’s still in the oven as I type. If it’s any good, you’ll be the first to know, if not, I’ll pretend like it never happened but secretly be grumpy for a week.

10 thoughts on “where is my master, the rebel quince

  1. Anonymous says:

    Quince is mostly made into jelly, cut up, with a little water cooked to mush, then put in a muslin bag to strain. Then cup for cup of sugar, brought to the boil, then lower the heat and cooked till a little sets on a saucer. It is a beautiful red colour.
    I guess there arent many grown now, they will be grown on very old trees. If you ever get a freezer, you can buy up large in season, then cut up and freeze till you want it. hugs Nana


  2. millie mirepoix says:

    Just like loads of other people (I'm sure), I've only ever had quince in store-bought paste form. However I have been finding myself staring at them in Moore Wilson's over the past few days… maybe it's time to play around with some, if they're still there of course!

    watching the mini-doco on Tourettes now 🙂 pretty cool!


  3. Hannah says:

    You know, if you'd just move to Australia, you could have Maggie Beer's Quince and Bitter Almond ice-cream at hand all year round… 😛

    Must say I'm not as enamoured of quince as you are, but I feel the way you feel here about figs and fuyu persimmons. I do like how you haven't gone overboard with the sugar, too. It freaks me out how much sugar some quince recipes use!

    I'm sure I wouldn't mind any amount of sugar in a vegan apple cake recipe, though…


  4. Samantha @ The Savvy Soybean says:

    I've never had a quince! The description sounds great though…are they wildly popular in New Zealand? Maybe my Whole Foods sells them… this was a long train of thought… gahh sorry

    The sorbet looks delicious. I once had sour apple sorbet, so I assume this might be similar in taste. Definitely going to go on a quince hunt sometime soon.

    Oh and if there's any possibility you're making the vegan apple cake I think you're making, it's scrumptious!!!


  5. Laura @ Hungry and Frozen says:

    Viv: Hope you have a lovely easter too 🙂

    Nana: Good idea about freezing them – will buy a whole bundle next time I see them. Nigella has a quince brandy recipe which looks very moreish 🙂

    Millie: I should give quince paste a go, it's so versatile. It's a good doco aye!

    Hannah: Maggie Beer is amazing! I've long coveted that beautiful book of hers, the enormous one with the embroidered tree on the cover (yes, I'm such a fan that I can't remember her book title LOL). Figs are rather magical too, I usually treat myself every year by buying a couple and eating them slooowly. The lack of sugar wasn't a mistake – like you, I sometimes shy away from many quince recipes because it's such a sugar overload!

    Samantha: I wouldn't say they're wildly popular at all here, although quince paste is rising in popularity. If you're based in the US they won't come in until your autumn 🙂 but I bet whole foods would be a good place to start. And no, it's not your apple cake but another recipe – I forgot about yours! Will have to try it and then I'll have two vegan apple cakes in my arsenal 😀


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