It never rains but it pours. This year the downpour has not been of the liquid variety – we’re still suffering from the effects of months of drought – but of the fruity sort. First came big black Schauenburger cherries, from the tree we planted on arrival here over twenty years ago. Then came lovely black quetsch plums, swiftly followed by Rubinette apples, a small, beautifully sweet-sharp Swiss-bred variety that is thought to have been a chance crossing between Cox and Golden Delicious. There have also been loads of windfall russets, picked up on my walk and delightedly borne home, for purées and pies. Now it’s the turn of our quince tree. So laden was it with fruit that I should probably have taken a leaf out of my neighbour’s book: he propped up the branches of his tree with stout sticks, for fear they would otherwise buckle under the load.
I’m never going to be able to use all mine. After baking them in the oven, grating them with apples for a tart and turning them into jelly (lovely on toast, or melted and brushed over an apple tart), now it’s time for chutney and membrillo. After that I’ll certainly have run out of quince puff (let me know if you’re in the neighbourhood and would like some).
The chutney is great with paté en croute or smoked ham – even with fish pie. Membrillo (that wonderful quince paste that you slice and pair with hard or semi-hard cheese) is gorgeous with L’Etivaz, the Swiss alpine cheese from the Pays d’Enhaut, or with Tomme de Savoie. The recipe cannibalises one I found on the Internet, from a granny in Galicia. I like her way of doing it: you boil the quinces whole first, which makes them far easier to peel and core. Then you put the pulp in the pan with half its weight in sugar (which I greatly reduced from the original recipe, which called for equal weights of fruit and sugar), whizz it up with a stick blender and boil it till thick and set. It’s much quicker and easier than most recipes I’ve used or seen.
QUINCE AND ORANGE CHUTNEY
Makes about 6 x 450g jars
6-7 quinces, peeled, quartered and cored (about 1 kg)
2 oranges, unpeeled, quartered
1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped
500g brown or raw sugar
750ml white wine vinegar or Melfor (Alsatian-style ‘vinegar’)
A walnut-sized piece of fresh ginger peeled and finely sliced
2 teaspoons mixed spices (mustard seeds, cloves, cinnamon, cumin)
2-3 dried red chillies, crumbled
2 cloves garlic crushed
juice and finely grated rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons salt
- Place the roughly chopped quince, oranges, apples and onions in the processor – you’ll need to do this in several batches – and process till well chopped.
- Place them all in a preserving pan and stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Bring to a boil and boil steadily for about 45 minutes (timing depends on your heat source), until well reduced and thick, stirring occasionally so the chutney doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Spoon into hot sterilized jars and seal while hot.
- Keep in a cool dark place. Refrigerate once opened.
5 quinces (ca. 1 kg)
Water to cover
Sugar (see method)
- Scrub the quinces to remove any fluff, place in a large pan, cover with water and simmer for around 45 minutes or until the fruit is soft when pierced with the point of a knife (but not falling apart).
- Remove from the heat and let cool in the liquid.
- Peel the quince, cut in quarters, remove cores and chop flesh roughly.
- Weigh the flesh (from 1 kg quince you should have approximately 650g flesh, but this will depend on the juiciness of the fruit).
- Calculate 50% of the fruit’s weight in sugar and place this in the pan together with the chopped flesh. Bring to a simmer, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Blend the fruit and sugar to a smooth puree in the pan, using a stick blender.
- Boil the puree steadily, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it thickens and darkens slightly in colour – the time it takes depends on your heat source but allow between 20 and 25 minutes. The spoon should form a clear channel in the bottom of the pan as you stir the membrillo.
- Let the membrillo cool a little before tipping into a plastic, silicone or metal container. Cut a piece of waxed paper the size of the top of the container and press it into the surface of the membrillo. Let cool, then refrigerate.
- Cut membrillo in squares or slices and serve with cheese.