Quince often is cooked into jellies. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times
From the Farmstand
The year-round Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand, 66 E. Randolph, offers Midwest-grown foods and other locally produced edibles, including those used in this recipe. Cooking classes are offered through the World Kitchen program (chicagoworldkitchen.org). Reach the Farmstand at (312) 742-8419, or go to chicagofarmstand.com.
Updated: May 9, 2012 9:57AM
If you ever find yourself on a game show or in a competitive round of Trivial Pursuit, you may be glad that you know this: The fruit Eve and Adam shared in the Garden of Eden was probably not an apple, as commonly reported. Instead, it is believed to have been the quince, a fragrant fruit resembling a pear or oddly shaped apple, from a gnarly tree of the rose family.
Records speak of quince in literature and poetry from ancient times, well before apples appear in writings. Recipes from the Middle Ages use quince liberally. They are revered in Greece and Armenia as the fruit of love and there are plenty of suggested ways to use them in recipes from those cultures, such as in jellies or with roasted lamb.
Another name for quince is marmelo, the root of our word marmalade. The first reported marmalades were made from quince; their high amount of pectin make them easy to jell.
When a basket of these novelties arrived at the Farmstand the other day, everyone remarked on their intriguing aroma — some thought it smelled like an especially sweet apple, while others were reminded of tropical pineapple.
Warned that the supply was very limited, the hunt was on for recipes to share with staff and customers. We had eaten quince as a jelly, especially in Latin American countries, but with no experience on the savory side, we went to work testing and tasting, looking for an entree to show them off.
First, know that this fruit is not for eating out of hand. Raw, it is tannic and bitter. Any fuzzy coating needs to be scrubbed off and then the skin pared away. But once the fruit cooks, it not only sweetens considerably, but the pale, cream-colored flesh may turn a lovely rosy shade, looking and tasting as if we’d added magic to the cooking.
Last year, Simply Quince by Barbara Ghazarian was published, covering the topic extensively. But the book lay in our library unused, since locally grown quince rarely turn up in the Chicago market (you’ll find quince from other places in stores through the fall).
It was a cover photo from a magazine that tempted us to roast and sweeten them with maple syrup for a decidedly fall dinner. Give them a try in this company-worthy recipe, or simply cooked into a sauce with honey and water.
After a few hours in the kitchen, we can safely say quince is much more than the answer to a trivia question. For us, it answered our quest for a welcome new addition to our autumn dinner menus.
Judith Dunbar Hines is the director of culinary arts and events for the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, which operates Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand.