Another summer has come and gone and once again our little quince tree did not bear any fruit. Although quinces are associated with the Mediterranean, they can grow in the lower parts of Canada (like here in the Toronto area). It seems the few quince tress that are in Canada are on family plots or used for pectin.
Quinces have been cultivated in Persia, near East, Greece for ages and this fruit looks like a cross between an apple and a pear. The aroma of quinces is intoxicating and the sweet and sour flavour is ideal for jams, spoon sweets, desserts and it pairs very well with pork. Although an under-ripened quince may be aromatic, it’s still green skin will tell you its not ready for us…yet. Once the colour turns to a yellow colour, you’re quinces are ready and that fruity aroma will perfume the room they are in even more so!
Greeks don’t eat quinces raw – too dense, firm to the tooth and tart. Quinces come alive when introduced to heat and today I am baking them and serving them with a good French vanilla ice cream. Much like apples or pears, it’s best to place your peeled and cored quinces in acidulated water so they don’t brown from exposure to oxygen.
This recipe is very simple, relying on sugar to balance quinces’ tartness, cinnamon and cloves to add complexity to the flavour and “the original Greek spirit”, Metaxa to coax the fruit’s natural sugars out. Metaxa used to be known as a Cognac but the French put an end to that. Then it was called a brandy but that also came to an end as Metaxa begins as a brandy but is spiked with sweet muscat wines from Samos and Limnos and some botanics. Metaxa can be found anywhere in Greece, here in Ontario most LCBO stores have it in stock.
Quinces can be a little harder to find but they are around. A neighbor gave me this basket of quinces but I’ve also seen some at green grocers on the Danforth (near Logan), near Pape Station and some Korean and Asian markets. Are you ready to try some quinces?
Baked Quinces With Metaxa, Cinnamon & Clove (Κυδωνια στο Φουρνο με Μεταξα, Κανελλα και Γαρυφαλλο)
12-14 large quinces, peeled, cored and quartered
3 cups of sugar
1 demi-tasse (Greek coffee cup) of Metaxa brandy
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground clove
- Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skins of your quinces, cut into quarters and remove the core and place in a large bowl of acidulated water.
- Bakes uncovered 1 hour until golden-brown, approx. one hour, tossing the quinces in the liquid once or twice during baking. The quince should be fork-tender, if not, then bake longer.
- Serve warm with a big scoop of French Vanilla ice cream or strained Greek yogurt, with a topping of 2-3 wedges of quince and spoon over some of the syrup.
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