JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, November 06, 2009

Mincemeat with quince instead of apples

Five huge quince from the Italian deli: time for a serious look through the recipe books for some ideas. My grandmother Buzz made quince jam every year, and her manuscript book - parts of which date back to the 19th century - is still my best source of inspiration on all things quince. Their scent takes me back to her kitchen in Oxford, to the enamelled kitchen table where she taught me how to bake.

Two have gone into the Christmas mincemeat instead of apple; one's flavouring some cheap brandy; the last two are going to be membrillo by the end of the day, and the peelings will be boiled up into a syrup*. When all that's done, I'm going straight back to the deli for some more, before the fleeting season ends. (And, no, I'm not going to tell you the name of the deli, in case you get there first. Sorry.)

I don't make many individual mince pies (too fiddly, wrong ratio of pastry to mincemeat), but a standard December pud here is an open mincemeat tart, sometimes using filo pastry, sometimes lovely egg-rich flaky. I've often bought the best mincemeat I could find, and added a little orange zest and a drizzle of brandy. Not this year. Easy peasy, you just need time for all that chopping. And a big sharp knife.

Mincemeat with quince ... or what Nigella calls quincemeat

for 3-4 big jars

Peel, core and chunk 1kg quince - that's two huge shop-bought ones, but would probably be six or seven of the smaller ones I grow in the garden (when I can get a crop). Toss them in a little almond oil (or melted butter?) and bake in a low oven for up to an hour until they're soft.

Meanwhile, chop 850g of mixed dried fruit - I used big fat muscat raisins, golden sultanas, a few Turkish apricots and a box of Italian crystalised lemon and lime peels. Put these in a large bowl with 250g muscovado sugar, 4 teaspoons of the best mixed spice you can find (I used The Spice Shop's Christmas mixture, which is FABULOUS all year round), and 100ml of spirit. Brandy would be the usual thing here, but I've got some home made eau de vie de coing, aka quince vodka & so I used that. Add 250g shredded suet (I forgot to ask the butcher, so I used a box of Atora; don't use the vegetable sort, it's the margarine of suets).

When the quince is both tender and cool, chop it finely and add to the bowl. Mix well and bottle. Leave at least a couple of weeks to let the flavours develop.

When it's time to make mince pies, I'll add a little grated orange zest, and perhaps some more spirit.

PS don't throw away the peelings, they will scent a *syrup made with equal quantities of water and caster sugar boiled down to half its volume. If I was really thrifty, I'd do this with orange peelings, too (there are never any lemon peels here, as I always find some use for the zest). For glazes, to sweeten tea, etc etc.


Sarah said...

I'm am completely mad for quinces. This was a lovely post. I bought some English quince yesterday a Borough, along with medlars and crab apples. I'll be working them this week end.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Sarah said...

Just thought of a question here...... all the fruit and spices are raw and not cooked out, so when you come to make the mince pies, (which only need 20 minutes in the oven, isn't the quince meat a bit raw? Have you used it before?

Joanna said...

Sarah, the quince is roasted in the oven first, so that it's cooked when you grate it - otherwise, yes, you'd have raw quince in the finished mince pie, which wouldn't be nice

Obviously I can't yet tell you exactly how good it is, because it's maturing, but I'll post as soon as I've tasted it in a week or two