There is a Quince in the front garden next door that is beginning to blossom.
Previous neighbours kept this quince pruned and picked the fruit regularly, now sadly it’s not being treated too kindly and has been left to its own devices. In earlier years it was covered in blossom, last year it was not so beautiful but there are a lot of buds on it this year so I am hoping it will shortly be covered in a froth of pretty pink blossoms.
Quinces come in many shapes and sizes, from large spreading trees to half standards suitable for smaller gardens or even in pots. Free-standing trees attain a height and spread of 3.75–5m (12–16ft). Next door’s quince is grown as a hedge.
Quinces need a long growing season to ripen well and so are best trained as a fan against a south or west-facing wall in more exposed or northerly gardens. They flower early, so avoid frost pockets and provided are in a sunny location, quinces grow in warmer climates or in sheltered, urban or coastal as free-standing trees.
The fruit is ready to harvest in October or November when they have turned from a light yellow to a golden colour. Next door’s quince has a lot of yellow fruit but also has a fair amount of un-ripened quinces on there also. I think I will knock on their door and ask for some, rather than just let them fall to the ground and rot. Apparently you are supposed to only pick undamaged quinces and leave to store in a cool, dry dark place in shallow trays, allowing the fruit to mature for six weeks before using. They keep for up to three months.
Quinces can be added to cooked apple and pear dishes or used to make quince sauce. It also makes excellent preserves, especially marmalade. Before collecting the quinces from next door, I have been looking up recipes to see what I can do with them, and there are many more than I expected. One that I will be making (that is assuming, of course, my neighbours let me pick their quinces) I found on the BBC Celebrity MasterChef website and is a recipe by Dick Strawbridge.
Poached quince with rosewater and elderflower cream with lemon and poppy seed shortbread
Ingredients : For the shortbread
175g/6oz plain flour
50g/2oz caster sugar
1 lemon, finely grated zest only
1 tsp poppy seeds
For the poached quince
4 quince, peeled and chopped
4 tbsp rosewater
100g/4oz caster sugar
For the elderflower cream
284ml/10fl oz carton double cream
2 tsp elderflower cordial
2-3 tbsp elderflower liqueur
icing sugar, to taste (optional)
Quince is poached here in rosewater, but you could add anything you like to the poaching liquor – vanilla or lemon zest would both work well.
For the shortbread, preheat the oven to 160C/320F/Gas 3 and line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
Mix the flour, butter and caster sugar in a food processor to mix briefly. Tip the mixture into a bowl and add the lemon zest and poppy seeds. Using your hands, bring the mixture together into a ball.
Roll out the shortbread to a thickness of about 0.5cm/¼in and, using a biscuit cutter, stamp out rounds. Place the rounds slightly spaced apart on the baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
For the poached quince, peel and slice the quince. Put the rosewater in a shallow pan with the caster sugar and 100ml/4fl oz water. Add the quince in a single layer and cook over a low heat for about 30-35 minutes, or until tender. The liquid should simmer, not boil. Leave to cool in the syrup.
For the elderflower cream, whip the cream in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Gently fold in the elderflower cordial and liqueur. Taste and add a little icing sugar if you like.
Using two dessertspoons, shape the cream into quenelles (rugby ball shapes) and place on serving plates. Arrange slices of the quince to the side and serve with the shortbread.
Who knows, one of my future posts may have a photo of home made lemon and poppy seed shortbread with poached quinces.
- Lamb and quince tajine recipe (telegraph.co.uk)
- Boozy quinces with gorgonzola and mascarpone recipe (telegraph.co.uk)