Advent Calendar 3: Quincemeat

I have wanted to make this recipe for literally years, but it has been too difficult to find the ingredients. However, with quince making a resurgence, and whole bushel of them showing up in my local wholefood shop, I decided it was about time to scratch this recipe off my to do list.

I love mince pies, and mincemeat in general. They celebrate the best
of the season; sweet fruits, heady spices and plenty of warming booze. This ‘Quincemeat’ has all of that in spades.

Quincemeat

  • Approx. 1kg quince (3-4 fruits is a good guide for this. I used just over 3 for this recipe.)
    2 tbsp butter
    250g sultanas
    250g raisins
    250g dried apricots
    250g soft light brown sugar (muscovado is a good call but any soft brown sugar will do)
    100g candied peel
    1tsp ground cloves
    1tsp ground ginger or cardamom
    1tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
    100ml calvados or brandy

Preheat the oven to 150c.

Peel, core and chop your quince into chunks. Quince have a much firmer flesh and woodier core than their cousins apples and pears, so take your time and use a sharp knife. Place the fruit on an oven tray or dish

IMG_6781.JPGMelt the butter and drizzle it over the quince. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the quince is soft.

Pour the hot quince and any juices into a mixing bowl. Rouglychop the sultanas and raisins and cut down the apricots into sultana-sized pieces. Add the fruit to the quince and mix together. Allow the mixture to cool completely.

Measure out your spices, sugar peel and booze. Add in the dry ingredients and peel and mix through, before adding the brandy and doing the same.

Pot up into jars or store covered in the fridge.

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This recipe isn’t particularly difficult. Like most mincemeats it just takes time and has a lot of ingredients. The most difficult parts are the chopping of the quince, and then the chopping of the sticky dried fruit. Beyond that it is just a case of weighing, mixing and and waiting.

This sweet and aromatic mincemeat makes a nice change from the dark and sticky traditional mincemeat. Pair it with lightly spic pastry or vanilla infused creams and ice creams for out of this world desserts this Christmas. Also, this method, with perhaps a reduced cook time, would work exceedingly well with similar fruits like apples and pears if quince are not availiable.

Enjoy!

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Quince: Part 2

If you are a longer term reader of She Who Bakes, you’ll remember this little rant about a certain yellow fruit. The rage persisted within me long after posting about it, and I never did get any very helpful responses. It turns out my Aunt has a fruiting Quince tree in her garden (likely a Japanese one), but I didn’t discover this until after I had already taken action.

As I have probably noted previously, I do like to garden. I wouln’t say I’m completely green fingered (though, I am wearing OPI ‘Gargantuan Green Grape’ today’…), but I can keep things alive, get them to flower etc. I’m actually pretty good with roses. But I digress. This spring, being the first spring in my new house, I was keen to start planning my new outdoor living space. I live in a fairly normal Portsmouth house- a victorian terrace 2 bed with a yard out the back. My back garden is concreted over, almost in its entirety, which was a little dismaying, but actually, considering how much I am out of the house with work, it’s ideal for a low maintenance set up, and whilst it isn’t vast (also a blessing, really), there’s room for most things I want to do in the short-medium term. It also has a very handsome shed.

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My dream for the garden was a leafy idyll, a respite from my busy commuter lifestyle. I wanted somewhere to relax with a glass of wine in the last of the summer evening sun, private and not too structured, harking back to my garden and the wooded village in my previous Kentish home. And, as an avid preserve maker and baker, I wanted a productive garden- Tomatoes and chillies for chutneys, any other veg to supplement mine and my pets’ meals, berries and fruits for jams, conserves, jellies and desserts, and herbs for all of the above.

The Quince drama made me certain I wanted to grow my own Quinces; that was an imperative. However, my garden as previously mentioned is small, and fruit trees are generally large. I began to investigate cordons, and asked a keen gardener acquaintance of mine, Tony, for advice. He told me about grafting (a lot of commercial fruit trees are actually cuttings from one ideal tree grafted onto, wait for it, Quince rootstock. WHAT.) and advised dwarfing varieties. In my mind, a dwarfing fruit tree would be, say, half the size of normal, so still 3 metres instead of 6- great for fruit picking, not so great for my postage stamp garden, particularly if I wanted more than one. Oh, what I did not know then!

Tony told me about a very good fruit tree producer in my county, Blackmoor. A little rummage (I say little…) on their website introduced me to their Patio Collection– dwarfing fruit trees that grow very happily in large planters or in the ground, and when full grown won’t exceed 1-2 metres in height. This was EXACTLY what I had been looking for. And, lo and behold, they offered a dwarf Quince.

SOLD.

A short drive up past Liss on the same chilly february day of ordering (I could have had it delivered, but I’m impatient), and I collected my beautiful new tree. He was dubbed Quincey, MD.

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It’s now June, and the tree is disgustingly healthy- a testament to the quality provided by Blackmoor. It’s doubled in size, put on leaf and blossom. It will likely fruit this year, and come winter I will be making preserves from them. That’s all I wanted. And, if we apply the maths, It would have cost me in excess of £5 to buy TWO quince fruit last autumn. For £25 plus compost and container (approx £32 all in) I have a beautiful tree, and I will have plenty of fruit to satisfy my curiosity. I only need 12-13 fruit for the tree to have paid for itself, which could theoretically happen this year, looking at the number of buds.

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I’m still annoyed about this. I wouldn’t be if I was talking about a Kiwi (though I have a Kiwi tree…) or a Dragon Fruit (sadly, I don’t grow these), or something else exotic that has to be doused in chemicals and flown halfway around the world for us to eat it, or grown in a hot house at great expense. I am talking about a fruit that not only grows well in the British climate, I’m talking about a fruit that has been grown in England since 1275 AD, a fruit that has grown successfully as far north as Scotland, and is a Eurasian native species. When in season (late autumn), Quince should be in greengrocers and supermarkets, yes, I concede, perhaps only the more specialist ones. I should not be having to shop online for them, nor should they be imported, nor should I have to tell a greengrocer what a Quince is.

We import vast (and I do mean vast) quantities of fruit as a nation that we are quite capable of growing ourselves at likely less expense to the consumer, of greater quality than most imported stock, and with a much reduced impact on pollution and food miles. Every year, tonnes upon tonnes of British fruit rots beneath forgotten trees of old orchards- on roundabouts and sidings. One of best jams I ever made was of little wild plums picked from the side of the approach to the M25 motorway. More and more productive ground is lost, and more and more productive trees are destroyed for space, but also because people can’t be bothered with them.

I’ll do a post another day about ‘scrumping’, and the wealth no doubt available in your home area, but please; just think about how wasteful we are. I’m all for convenience, but please, please look at your labels. Support British produce, buy local and in season in you can. And why not think about looking for fruit in your area, or, even better, planting a fruit tree? It’s good for the environment, good for your well being, good for your tastebuds (you can’t beat homegrown), and, possibly most importantly, good for your pocket.

And for God’s sake, someone agree with me on this Quince issue?

Later days,

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Quince?

I’m genuinely getting cross about this now. Quince, a fruit in the same family as apples and pears. Somewhat déclassé, but still grown in abundance in this country and made into wondeful jellies and jams and accompaniments.

But can you buy any fresh? Can you f-!

I have looked at every mainstream supermarket’s online inventory. No one stocks them as far as I can tell. Not even Waitrose! You can get them, pricey though they are, from Ocado.com, an online supermarket, but I don’t want a whole shop, I just want some Quince, maybe some cranberries too (which are now readily available, hooray, but when you consider they aren’t really grown in this country, preposterous!), and I can’t faff about with delivery for a couple of items; it isn’t worth it.

I’m going to try the morrissons ‘fresh market’ stores near where I live (Southsea, Portsmouth, UK), also because I want some italian white onions but… and greengrocers, but so help me if I have to go to Borough Market for this…

I’m sorry for ranting, but it really is silly. If Asda can stock seasonal Persimmons and Passion Fruit, why not Quince!

I’ll let you know how I get on, but if anyone has any ideas beyond growing my own, I’d like to hear them!