Harvest of quince

One side of the house I grew up in is sheltered by a large quince tree, one of two given to my family so many years ago that I can barely remember a time without them.  I fondly remember the friend who gifted us these trees, a renown artist and local historian who could keep you on the edge of your seat while spinning a yarn of some long ago adventure of wartime travels or early life in New York City.  When we crossed paths in town he would always say: “draw every day!” But that is another story… back to our quince.  In addition to graciously holding our bird feeders, the tree I refer to continues to yield two special gifts after all these years.  First, it has spread a leafy canopy across the side of the house which ensures a private alfresco dining room in temperate weather, and second, the amazing harvest of quince.

Quince is a peculiar fruit, looking somewhat like a pear, but bumpy and irregular in shape. Quince is not a fruit to be eaten like an apple – it’s very hard and not very sweet – it requires preparation to eat.  But there is something about this fruit that makes all the work worthwhile.  The first clue to just how special quince is comes as late fall approaches.  Walk up the slate path and suddenly be enveloped by the rich orchard aroma and you will know what I mean.  Quince lovers do.  Our little
orchard spreads it’s magic through the neighborhood.  Strangers walk by and ask if they can select some fruit to jar or bake… “wait until the aroma is just right” we say. And when these fruit are ready the rewards are like no other.

This simple recipe is my favorite.  It is a time consuming task to peel and slice the hard bumpy shapes, but once completed this preparation is a hands down winner for it’s ease and great taste.

Home Baked Quince
2 pounds quince, peeled, cored and sliced
5 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons water
300° oven.  In a rectangular baking dish, overlap the sliced fruit, drizzle with honey, lime juice and water.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove foil, raise heat to 425° and bake for 10 minutes, until liquid is thickened and fruit is golden.

Quince is coming into it’s own… this year I have read of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is adding quince to their enchanting acres.  Just outside of Manhattan in Pocantico Hills, New York, Stone Barns is an oasis for anyone with a love of the garden or interest in sustainable living and I was delighted to learn that they have made a place for this ancient fruit.  Quince also popped up just this past week on my local NPR affiliate, WNYC in their Last Chance Foods series, with another great recipe and comments of afficionados far more expert than me.

Fortunately, the quince tree does well in my tri-state area.  We’ve even seen some small trees taking hold in the yard.  For a lifetime investment, the quince is a worthy candidate.  Who would have guessed all those years ago that those little trees would become such a treasure, a gift from a dear friend with a bounty to share for generations.

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6 Comments to Harvest of quince

  1. Sue's Gravatar Sue
    November 16, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    A wonderful and very real story . Dad and Joel would be very happy. Very good pictures.

  2. Alex's Gravatar Alex
    November 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Yum! Thanks for the quince recipe, I’ve found that it’s difficult to find a good one. My mom tried to make them once… that didn’t turn out to well:) But the ones in the photo look delicious!

  3. Alex's Gravatar Alex
    November 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    too*

  4. cynthia's Gravatar cynthia
    November 29, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    As someone who knows absolutely nothing about Quince, I found this entry delightful. Even more exciting is the info about the Stone Barns Center; I’m already thinking of a springtime excursion!

  5. November 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Your advice to “wait until the aroma is just right” reminded me of an autumn day when I stepped from inside the Cloisters museum to the Bonnefont Herb Garden which is home to four mature quince trees. Overnight the fruit ripened and spread a fragrant aroma through the breeze. The staff was eager to take home the fallen fruit, cook it in various recipes, and bring it back to share with each other. Delicious! p.s. – if you click the link to my website http://web.mac.com/barbara_bell, you will find some of my photos of the quince trees throughout the seasons at The Cloisters.

  6. Ilan Halfi's Gravatar Ilan Halfi
    December 5, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Well, now I’m going to have to scour farmer’s markets and local groceries for quince to try it! Or I suppose we could make a little trek down to you sometime and pick some for ourselves.

    I’m enjoying the blog so far, Andrea. It’s got a lot of texture to it, it’s entertaining to read.