The task at hand was daunting, intimidating, overwhelming, and exciting:
Find a fruit.
Any fruit! Preferably one I hadn’t tried before, and learn all about it.
Of course, going to the market had to be thoroughly planned out. Around the corner from me is the Junction Farmers Market every Saturday, but the season had been winding down, and I already knew most of the fruit that would be there was fruit I was already very familiar with (being Canadian, and all): Apples, mostly.
What’s a girl to do?
Hit up China Town!
Well, okay, we didn’t technically get that far. Instead, on our search for various other unique items for a few other personal projects I was doing at home, it appeared before us:
The Kensington Fruit Market.
Located on the corner of St.Andrew and Kensington, we started picking through the produce, gathering some home groceries while keeping an eye open for something different.
And there, sitting in a basket outside, were the fruit of our search. Green, with a strange bit of down-like fur, were Quince.
I had heard of Quince before, from a few television food shows in the past, but had never tried it. So I searched for the brightest coloured fruit I could find, grabbed it up, and back home we went (a couple hours later, of course- when you’re in Kensington Market, you check out everything else, of course!)
Readings from my class reminded me that this fruit was going to require some special care. So online I went, and landed on a blog called “The Wednesday Chef”.
A quick browse on her entry for Quince, and I had my plan laid out. Following her directions, I would have to peel the Quince and treat it much like an apple, coring it and slicing it into wedges, keeping it in water to keep it from oxidizing.
Well, if it were only that easy.
Maybe I had picked a Quince just a little under-ripe, but this thing was NOT easy to peel or dice. I had to really put my weight into the blade to get through the thing, and the skin wasn’t the easiest to peel off either. But after some grunts of frustration and amazement, it was diced up and ready for-
The cooking? Wait, cooking fruit? Hold on, let’s backtrack here and figure this out.
According to Wikipedia (and numerous other articles), Quince has a very astringent taste, and is rather tough in it’s raw state. It is ripe when Golden (so mine was definitely a little under=ripe), and typically is in season in around October after being grown in small orchards in southern Europe, where the summers are hot enough for the tree to bear fruit. It is the sole member of it’s genus, despite its striking similarity to Pear and Apples.
They are high in Pectin, and thus are useful for jam-making, and were once used as a digestif in the form of Quince Paste.
Well, that’s all well and good, But how do I cook it?
According to the Wednesday Chef, a boiling simple syrup is all I need. In her recipe, she adds a bit of Star Anise, but I opted to skip that, as I wanted to taste the Quince unadulterated.
So a simple syrup, a cup of water and a cup of sugar, was put into my little glass pot, and once it was at a boil, in went the Quince wedges.
Which, of course, stopped boiling when I took the picture, since that’s what happens when cold items are put into hot water. Damn you, science!
Checking back with the Wednesday Chef blog, I was to expect the fruit to turn a pale pink colour, and to cook them until a knife slid in without resistance.
Well, that didn’t happen. The colour, I mean. My Quince never changed it’s colour (maybe because it was immature, who knows), but after a shorter boiling period than the chef recommended, my knife slid through the fruit.
Off the heat it came, out of the syrup, and onto a plate to cool. I couldn’t contain myself from trying a piece a few minutes later, still hot and steaming, but just so soft on the tongue.
Visually, the quince became softer looking, almost begging to be gingerly picked up to melt in your mouth. I gave in, and took a bite.
The texture was not quite gritty, but wasn’t smooth either. It was fibrous, certainly, and immediately I tasted the syrup it was cooked in. But then I tasted the astringent character I had been cooking out, a touch of sour. It was, as my partner tasted with me, like eating sour candy, a sour patch kid. Maybe I didn’t cook it long enough, maybe it’s adolescence prevented the sour from being so easily cooked out, along with the lack of colour changed.
Or maybe I had been misinformed about the colour change.
Either way, this fruit was edible to me, and did not last half an hour from the moment it was taken out of the boiling syrup. I adored the sweet and sour nature, even as it lingered a little while later, but I would certainly enjoy flavouring the syrup with spices such as the Star Anise in the Wednesday’s Chef recipe.
If I had to do it over again, I would have looked in another market for a more ripened fruit, just to see if there is really a difference, or if there was an anomaly with the Wednesday’s Chef’s fruit.
All in all, a delicious venture, though there are still many fruit to try in the world!
Kensington Generic Pic (2014), retrieved October 17th, 2016 from https://itshung.com/2014/05/24/137/
Quince (2016), retrieved October 17th, 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quince
Eat Quince (2004-2012), retrieved October 17th, 2016 from http://www.eattheseasons.co.uk/Articles/quince.php