Monday, October 19, 2009

...and slices of quince

This is what was in the surprise seasonal package I received from my friend Karen's farm. Those sensuous yellow fruits are quinces, walnuts in the background, and the mahogany fruits in front of the walnuts are jujubes. Here's what Karen says about the jujubes: "The Jujus are perhaps an acquired taste. Just pop them in your mouth--they do have a pit. They are chewy, with a date-like quality and they are ripe when slightly dry and wrinkled." I've been doing just that--popping them in my mouth--and they are like dates, a little less sweet, with a crispy dry skin.
As for the quinces, with their subtle, appley fragrance--she suggests making quince paste. She enclosed a recipe for cotognata (Italian) that refers to the nuns making it and pressing it into special ceramic dishes. I do love quinces, but not quince paste; it's just a little too medieval for me. Luckily, I have Jane Grigson's Fruit Book, which has some great quince recipes and this wonderful poem about quinces, composed by Shafur ben Utman al-Mushafi, an Arabic-Andalusian poet who died in 982:
It is yellow in color, as if it wore a daffodil
tunic, and it smells like musk, a penetrating smell.

It has the perfume of a loved woman and the same
hardness of heart, but it has the color of the
impassioned and scrawny lover.

Its pallor is borrowed from my pallor; its smell
is my sweetheart's breath.

When it stood fragrant on the bough and the leaves
had woven for it a covering of brocade,

I gently put up my hand to pluck it and to set it
like a censer in the middle of my room.

It had a cloak of ash-colored down hovering over
its smooth golden body,

and when it lay naked in my hand, with nothing more than
its daffodil-colored shift,

it made me think of her I cannot mention, and I feared
the ardor of my breath would shrivel it in my fingers.
This is the kind of thing I adore Jane Grigson for. I think I will make Quinces Baked in the French Style (sort of like baked apples) with them, after I enjoy them for a while in their glass bowl.

1 comment:

Caroline said...

I have a scrappy quince tree in my backyard that, after some pruning and clearing around it to give it more light & space, has finally set fruit for the first time in at least 7 years! The quinces are still small and hard, but I'm collecting recipes like yours for when they are ready.