Valley Bounty: Quince
What is a quince, anyway? If you shop at certain specialty grocers, you may have seen this weird-looking cousin of apples and pears popping up in recent years. Truth be told, quinces have been grown in New England since colonial times — they were a bountiful source of pectin, the fruit-derived polysaccharide needed for making jams, jellies, and fruit preserves, before the introduction of powdered pectin in the late nineteenth century.
Nowadays, quinces are far less common than they once were, but that shouldn’t deter you from giving them a try. Not really edible raw, quinces are usually served either as a thick jelly known in Spanish as “dulce de membrillo” (or simply “membrillo”), or poached in water sweetened with sugar or honey and spiced with star anise, cloves, cinnamon, etc. Poached quinces acquire a striking pink color and a nice blend of sweetness and tartness. They pair excellently with strong cheeses (try Manchego, Gouda, or gorgonzola), make a great addition to oatmeal or cream of wheat (with some cinnamon and a splash of cream), and offer an interesting variation on apple desserts like pie, crumble, and turnovers.
Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)