Our lovely next-door neighbors have a quince tree in their yard and have offered up both the fruits and a bundle of quince recipes. Of these dozen or so recipes, I am salivating the most over:
- Quinces Poached in Syrup (from the New Book of Middle Eastern Food);
- Stuffed Quinces or Mahshi Safargel (also from the New Book of Middle Eastern Food);
- Chicken and Fennel Stew with Quince or Koto Me Krasi, Maratho Ke Kydoni (from The Foods of The Greek Isles); and, possibly
- Tagine of Lamb with Quince or Safardjaliya (also from the New Book of Middle Eastern Food)
As anyone who has ever tried biting into one can tell you, raw quinces are hard and bitter and basically inedible (unless you're trapped on a desert island and have nothing else to eat in which case you might find them delectable.) But cook them long enough and they turn a lovely reddish color, become sweet, and release a uniquely lovely perfume (according to wikipedia, Plutarch reports that a Greek bride would nibble a quince to perfume her kiss before entering the bridal chamber, "in order that the first greeting may not be disagreeable nor unpleasant".)
Quince trees are native to Iran, Armenia, Turkey, Albany, Macedonia, Greece and Bulgaria where they are known by their Arabic name, "safarjal". Although quinces were introduced in the New World, we have very few here in North America because they could not withstand something called "fireblight disease" which we apparently have quite a bit of. So it appears that the gnarled little tree growing in my neighbors' yard is something of a rarity.
All the more reason to bake, roast and poach the hell out of its fruits!
More to come later, once I've cooked a few of these things.