I had expected a few. Once inside the house, I counted 42 quinces. What fabulous largesse!
I wasn’t able to cook immediately. By next morning their heady outgassing had perfumed the entire house. I could smell them in the kitchen from my bedroom quite a distance away.
A beautiful looking fruit often in irregular shapes.
First up I washed and dried each quince. In so doing I was looking for frass (codling moth poo). Mostly, where a piece of fruit was infected, the frasse oozed and cracked from the bottom end of the quince (not the stem as with my pears). Compare the first and second photo below; first quinces showed frasses and the second showed no sign of frasse on their bottoms.
I wondered did the codling moth enter through this point, or did they exit here. Or was it through the sides? I noticed a few ‘stings’ on the sides (as was common with my apples). What would peeling and cutting the quinces would reveal?
Meanwhile I watched the exit of some little critters across my kitchen bench. A couple of bugs. A red mite. A worm/caterpillar. All so very tiny. All so very active.
Once peeled, clearly many quinces had spots indicating entry or exit of the codling moth. The one in the photo below had the most extreme inner tunnels.
You may find it difficult to believe, but I was able to cut some useful pieces from this quince for stewing despite the seeming ruin. In fact there was only one of the quinces that was irredeemable. Some of the flesh could always be saved on the others. Meanwhile I found the quinces without side holes still had their tunnels.
Of course patience is required, and the knife and chopping board needed constant cleaning otherwise the black dots (like finely ground black pepper) of codling moth poo would infiltrate the cooking. This process was no different to that I followed when drying my pears and apples.
Needless to say it was always a pleasure when I halved a quince and there was no evidence of codling moth. I was surprised how many seeds they all contained.
With the first pot full, I popped it onto the stove top. I hadn’t weighed the quince pieces and therefore could not calculate an appropriate weight for sugar. In the absence of information I spooned raw sugar over until I thought it might be enough, stirred that around and then sprinkled more. Without adding water I started this on a very low heat and let it build up for half an hour, by which time liquid was forming in the saucepan and I could begin to control the cook. The pot fulls were allowed to gently boil for a further thirty minutes. Into small meal sized containers and the job was done.
As luck would have it, the quantity of sugar I added was about right. What are the chances? The fruit changed colour to a rich reddish orange colour. The flavour seemed like that of it natural aroma – strange that a smell could translate into a taste. Heady and delightful.
Before taking on these quinces, my memory of these fruits being difficult to cut had created a monster in my mind. Perhaps my knife is sharper than those of the past. The quinces are tough to cut but not a challenge. On this basis I will repeat this process next year should quinces come my way.
Now I have a major store of stewed quinces to get me through the winter. Should be terrific on top of my morning oats! Thanks Andrew.