Friday, February 17, 2012

Quince Time.

In one of the cookery books referred to earlier in the week - Miss Parloa’s New Cookbook and Marketing Guide (Boston, 1908) – I spotted a recipe for quince sauce, and was immediately reminded of an absolutely delicious-sounding medieval sauce which also contains quinces. The two sauces could not be more different, but such is the way the mind works when it is in random mode. I would like to honour the quince today by sharing those recipes with you.

First, let us remember that the quince is ‘The fruit of the tree Cydonia oblonga,  a golden yellow, typically pear-shaped pome with many-seeded cells, which is hard-fleshed and astringent when raw but aromatic and deep orange in colour when cooked’ (OED). It is native to the Caucasus region – the place where Europe and Asia meet – and has been known, loved, and cultivated since ancient times. Some scholars believe that it was the quince, not the apple, which tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden – a theory that makes sense, the apple being a temperate climate fruit, and all the biblical action presumably taking place in the Middle East or thereabouts.

It may well have been the ancient Greeks who discovered the magic that ensues when the hard, astringent fruit is cooked in honey and becomes transformed into something utterly delicious, sweet and fragrant. To the Greeks, the quince symbolised fertility and was dedicated to the goddess of love, Aphrodite. The reputation of the quince as an aphrodisiac persisted for centuries, and one of my favourite historical recipes containing quinces is for a sixteenth century Tarte To Provoke Courage In A Man Or Woman – ‘courage’ at the time meaning ‘lust’.

The most enduring way of using quinces however is as a conserve. Indeed, the original marmalade was made with quinces, not citrus. Samuel Pepys, the seventeenth century diarist noted his wife’s efforts to make Marmalett of Quinces.

It would be tedious to list all of the recipes here on the blog which contain quinces, but I will give you of a few of my favourites:

A seventeenth century pippin (apple) pie which also included quince and orengado.
A QuinceSyrup from the 1870s
A fourteenth century German recipe for chicken with pears or quinces.
Apple butter– a wonderful variation which includes a proportion of quinces.
And the recipe which wins the prize for the most appealing name – a Quidinia of Quinces.

Now, to the sauces.

First, a recipe from the Forme of Cury (1390s). It is one of the earliest ‘named’ sauces, but sadly I don’t think we will ever know if it is named for a particular ‘madam’ or in honour of the generic Lady of the House. I would be delighted to hear from any medieval scholars who have ideas. The sauce contains spices, various herbs, several different fruits, and garlic, and was intended to be served with goose.

Sawse Madame.
 Take sawge. persel. ysope. and saueray. quinces. and peeres, garlek and Grapes. and fylle the gees þerwith. and sowe the hole þat no grece come out. and roost hem wel. and kepe the grece þat fallith þerof. take galytyne and grece and do in a possynet, whan the gees buth rosted ynowh; take an smyte hem on pecys. and þat tat is withinne and do it in a possynet and put þerinne wyne if it be to thyk. do þerto powdour of galyngale. powdour douce and salt and boyle the sawse and dresse þe Gees in disshes and lay þe sowe onoward.

Which means, more or less:

Take sage, parsley, hyssop and savory, quinces and pears, garlic and grapes, and stuff the geese with it and sew the hole [so] that no grease comes out. Roast [the geese] well and save the grease that drips from it. Take galentine and grease and do it [cook it] in a small pot. When the geese are roasted enough, take them off [the spit] and cut them in pieces, and take what is in it [the stuffing] and put this in a small pot. Add wine if it is too thick. Add powder of galingale, sweet spices, and salt. Boil the sauce, and dress the geese in dishes and lay the sauce on it.
And now for something completely different – an unequivocally sweet pudding sauce from six hundred years later.

Quince Sauce.
One cupful of quince preserve, one of milk, one tablespoonful of corn-starch, half a cupful of sugar. Mix the corn-starch with a little of the cold milk, and put the remainder in the double boiler. When it boils, stir in the corn-starch, and cook ten minutes; then add the sugar and the preserve, mashed fine. Cook ten minutes longer and rub through a strainer. This sauce is usually served cold, but when used with hot pudding, it too should be hot.
Miss Parloa’s New Cookbook and Marketing Guide (Boston, 1908)

Enjoy your next batch of quinces!

Quotation for the Day.

Each tree
  Laden with fairest fruit, that hung to th' eye
    Tempting, stirr'd in me sudden appetite
      To pluck and eat.
John Milton, Paradise Lost
         (bk. VIII, l. 30)


Anonymous said...

I've heard the suggestion of quince as the fruit of Eden, but how likely do you think it is that Eve would have tried to take a bit of a raw quince and then offered it to Adam?


The Old Foodie said...

Hi Sandra - apologies for my atrocioiusly late response - I have been frantically busy lately. I think the answer to you question depends on whether you take the Old Testament literally, or as an allegorical tale, with the fruit being sympbolic. I take it to be the latter.

Saucy Dressings said...

Hello Old Foodie.... I tried to follow the link to the Quidinia recipe, which I agree has the most wonderful alliterative sound, but I get a 404 - could you give me an up to date link? Also, re the Milton quote, how do you know it refers to quince?