There are some fruits and vegetables that remind me of the past. Odd shapes and incredible flavor and fragrances. Quince are one of those fruits. Impossible to eat as is.
Often when at the market something catches my eye that I HAVE TO COOK. I don't think I ever cooked or saw quince in California when I lived there, but in Italy, there are two kinds of quince, cotogna, one more of an apple shape and these that I found which are more like an ancient pear. The fragrance they gave off in the bag was intoxicating. This is an old fashioned sweet which every household used to have. Lovely with tea as a sweet or now served with pecorino cheese as a snack.
Last week I saw some and didn't pick them up as I was working and went shopping on my day off twice and didn't find them. So I grabbed the next quince I saw at the market this week to make Cotognata, a quince paste which is served with cheeses here. It is also known as Membrillo in Spain.
In my travels, I am also always on the look out for new food toys. When I was in Sicily I found some formine, clay bowls with designs for molding the cotognata and other fruit pastes which are also eaten as desserts. In Catania I saw the paste also made from cactus fruit, prickly pears, knows as Fichi d'India.
The molds traditionally have religious decorations, probably a hold over from the Spanish occupation of Sicily.
It is a simple recipe- like jam making and can be made darker by cooking longer-
The recipe I used was equal weight of sugar to puree and cooking until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Other recipes say cook for an hour.
I am waiting now for the paste to dry so I can un-mold it and will add the photo's to the blog.
1 kilo quinces
1 kilo sugar
1 bay leaf or lemon
( basically it is equal parts of sugar to the fruit puree, so can be any amount)
Wash and peel the quinces.
Cut into chunks.
Place in pan and cover with water add the bay leaf or lemon slices for flavor.( some recipes add cinnamon)
Boil and cook until tender.
Remove from water.
Puree. I used an immersion blender.
Weigh the puree.
Add the same weight of sugar.
Mix and cook to desired thickness and color.
Wet the molds with cold water ( can also use jam jars or a glass baking dish)
Let sit out until dry.
( you can also place in a low oven overnight. I may need to do that as it is not hot now)
Remove from molds and you can cut into slices or shapes, using cookie cutters.
You can save in a tin with bay leaves between layers or waxed paper.
If serving as a sweet, after cutting, roll pieces in granulated sugar.