Wednesday, 3 December 2014

2. Autumn Quince Chutney

2.  Autumn Quince Chutney
      Quinces are rarely available these days in our local British greengrocers, let alone supermarkets.  It is a delight therefore to find them this late autumn in Barrow Boys, my own ‘Fruit and Veggie’ shop in Ryde on the Isle of Wight.  

      As well as making the traditional Quinze Jelly conserve (see Sally Wise's recipe below), that was so beloved of our ancestors, quinces are much sort after by today's home winemaking enthusiasts, inspired no doubt by John Farley, chef of the London Tavern in Bishopsgate who wrote a quince wine recipe  in his book The London Art of Cookery back in 1783. 
      The Quince has a long Levantine history and is often thought to be the infamous 'apple' mentioned in the Garden of Eden. Revered by the Ancient Greeks as sacred to Aphrodite, it is mentioned in the culinary writings of the Apicius the Roman epicure, (quinces stewed with honey), and it would be logical to suppose that the Romans brought the quince to Britain to cultivate, but there is no record of this. It  makes its first recorded appearance in England in 1275 when Edward I had one planted in the Tower of London precincts. 
     By the 17th century in England there were more quince recipes than for any other orchard fruit, it being prized by cooks and apothecaries, who prescribed sweet quince pastes to help digestion.  King James I's herbalist John Parkinson wrote in 1629: 
"There is no fruit growing in this Land that is of so many excellent uses as this, serving as well to make many dishes of meate for the table, as for banquets, and much more for the Physicall verities". One of the 'Physicall verities' he omitted to mention was that the fruit was also considered at that time to be an aphrodisiac. 

Quinces make a superb and very tasty chutney which I made this autumn.  I adapted my recipe from the Royal Horticultural Society website, which also gives advice on growing quince fruit trees in your garden.   I shall use my Quince chutney with meat based curries, roast pork or cheese when I open a jar next Easter. 

Ingredients.   Prep: 30 mins.     
900g      Quince, peeled and cored and roughly chopped.

900g      Bramley Apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped.
900g      Light Muscovado brown Sugar.
2           Red peppers, deseeded and diced
 small, (add more for heat if required).
250g      Dates, roughly chopped
3cm       Fresh Root Ginger, peeled and finely grated.
1 tsp      Ground Cumin
1 tsp      Mixed Spice.
1 tbs      Salt.

900ml    Cider Vinegar

Method.  Cook: Approx 1 hr. Makes four 500g jars.

Combine all the ingredients in a large heavy based saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to boil and the reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 45 mins – 1hour stirring regularly until the mixture has thickened.  Ladle hot chutney into sterilised hot jars, seal and label.   Store in cool dark place for one month to mature.  Chill after opening. 

                                                                                                                               Stuart Buchanan

Further Reading
Health from Nature Health Benefits of the Quince.
Quince Jelly  Sally Wise's recipe for quince jelly and tarts.
Royal Horticultural Society  RHS web page on quinces.
Roman in the Gloamin  Classical recipes from Apicius transcribed by an SCA member.
Medieval Cooking  Recipes from  SCA Guildmistress Jehanne 3 Owls
Historic Food The history of English quince recipes

Food for thought  As in the Fine Arts, the progress of mankind from barbarism to civilisation is marked by a gradual succession of triumphs over the rude materialities of nature, so in the art of cookery is the progress gradual from the earliest and simplest modes, to those of the most complicated and refined. .
Mrs Isabella Beeton
The Book of Household Management 1861

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