…the old, the full-sized, the connected.
I pulled all the quinces off our tree this morning. We tried through several nurseries over several years to find a full-sized quince without any luck. Finally, we found one in a nursery on our way out to Vesuvius to get a ferry home from a visit to my mother who was recuperating at the time from a fall that had severely curtailed her mobility. The quince in question was a pretty sad specimen, and the nurserywoman refused to sell it to us, but asked if we knew anyone who had a named variety, a situation that would allow us to take cuttings to start. So back we went to my mother’s place and snipped a dozen cuttings from her quince, wrapped them in moistened paper towel and went for the ferry. That was ten years ago, and the tree isn’t forty feet tall because we keep it pruned pretty strictly lest it become impossible to pick. Starting the third year, it gave us a couple of dozen quinces, increasing quickly to a hundred or so, and this morning I picked a full wheelbarrow full of fuzzy yellow fruit that are sized somewhere between a baseball and a softball and hard as rocks. A couple that were split I winnowed out, trimmed up and made into quince paste this morning.
Few people seem to be familiar with the fruits and it unlikely that they would appear in a market. We like to rub the fuzz off them, quarter them and roast them in the pan with pork or chicken and quartered onions. They are really tart, but a nice foil for the onions and the meat. We have also juiced them and made quince jelly: they are loaded with pectin and will jell easily, producing the loveliest pink transparent jelly that goes as well with yogurt as it does with toast. The leavings from the juice get put through a Victoria Strainer and sweetened to make something like applesauce. If you have a food dehydrator, it also makes delicious fruit leather, or it could be made into something like turkish delight, or quince newtons or who knows what else.
My mother is no longer with us, so the tree is something of a living memorial in the yard, along with the bay laurel that we got as a wedding present from Dad’s father, via her and Dad (been in the back yard for 32 years as of Thursday). I like carrying all this lore around with me as I reach deeper and deeper into old age, and the bay leaves and quinces liven the culinary happenings in a way that stirs up lots of fond memories without venturing into maudlin nostalgia. The lore makes for a nice counterpoint to all the fury out there.