Marmalade Matrons: How to stay cozy this winter with quince

There is no fruit growing in this Land that is of so many excellent uses as this, serving as well to make many dishes of meate for the table, as for banquets, and much more for the Physicall vertues
— 1629, John Parkinson, the Covent Garden based herbarist to James I

As the rainy season descends upon us, and the darkness begins to outweigh the light, what could be more important on our sweet island than to stay cozy?  We can think of two enticing ways to enjoy these newly chilled evenings, and they both involve quince.

Originating in the birthplace of humanity, the fertile crescent, quince is an ancient fruit.  Spreading in popularity from Asia Minor to the balmy Mediterranean, it quickly became a favorite of the Greeks and the Romans. 

quince on platter

In the same family as apples and pears (genus Cydonia), and predating these popular cousins, quince was likely the fruit tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden and the gift Paris gave to the goddess of love herself, Aphrodite.  The Greek wedding gift of choice, young brides were said to have nibbled the fruit before they entered their marriage chamber to sweeten their kisses.

It's no wonder with its plump form and succulent smell that quince became associated with love and sensuality.  Or perhaps it is the soft down fuzz that covers its ripe flesh -- begging for petting and caressing.  Virtually inedible raw, Nigel Slater calls it, "the cooks fruit: one for the kitchen rather than the fruit bowl...".  (Ripe, p, 436)  And what a beautiful cook it can be, the golden ripe skin breaking down under heat and transforming into magnificent crimson -- like a blushing bride flushed with excitement. 

But why stop there? Ever heard of the Marmalade Madames?  If you've ever found yourself wandering through the red light district of seventeenth century London, you'll know that these ladies of the night were aptly named by the aphrodisiac fruit itself.  Where do you think Christina and “Lady Marmalade” got their know how?  "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?" anyone?  From the Portuguese word for quince, "marmello", marmalade was originally made from the juice, skins and fruit of quince.  Working with its high levels of naturally occurring pectin, the ancients cleverly noticed that drenching whole quince in honey and applying heat would develop a delicious and firm 'set'.  Viola, the birth of marmalade - long before the California orange.

Continuing the tradition, this year's batch of Girl Meet's Dirt's handmade, island grown, Quince Marmalade is juicier than ever and beautifully bright red to boot!  Sweetened within its own juices and packed with vitamin C, it's the perfect remedy for the winter blues.  It is positively delightful as a topping on toast or folded into a buttery tart shell.  But we love it on Manchego, Cheddar, Idiazabal, or any triple-creme for a guest worthy spread (delice de Bourgogne for a special treat).

All those fans of our Quince Cutting Preserve will be thrilled to see it back in stock and ready for spreading on your holiday cheese boards.  Hello holiday entertaining season!  We recommend quince with aged Manchego (quince love’s sheep’s milk!), Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar, Parmigiano Reggiano, or Glendale Shepherd's Woodsman aged hard sheep's milk cheese (on Whidbey Island).

Quince Cuttings open-2365.jpg

Whatever way you choose to stay cozy this winter, may we recommend enjoying it with a side of quince?  It will leave you blushing with delight.

Each tree

Laden with fairest fruit, that hung to th’ eye

Tempting, stirr’d in me sudden appetite

To pluck and eat.
— John Milton, Paradise Lost (bk. VIII, l. 30)

The quickie

It's that time of year again when I can't help all my dirty thoughts.  I spent a full ten minutes today scrubbing the stains from my hands.  Dirt stains.  Last week I was more likely to be prying a white, sticky, gluey mess from my forearms.  But Spring has arrived, the days have gotten longer, and the garden now trumps any indoor project, as magical as it may be, centered on flour, water, salt, and all that wild yeast hanging around my house.  I still want to tell you about my winter adventures with sourdough cultures and naturally leavened bread (and the extra "loaf" I've acquired), but it'll have to wait for a rainy stretch.  Today I'm filled with the alchemy that is Spring.

Dirty Longings

I miss New York City.  It's not what you think.  I spent the greater part of yesterday kneeling on all fours in my kitchen (I wish this was a racy story - it would be much more enjoyable for all parties involved), with industrial knee pads borrowed from my husband (not for), scrubbing all the "character" out of our terracotta floors.  I get the character thing, but when it looks like someone hasn't scrubbed a floor in ten years and it's not even my own dirt, I take matters into my own hands.  In fact I scrub - like hell.  And I mop, and steam (thank you Mom for the steam cleaner - well kinda).  And I scrub again. 

Garden Tools: Excel and then some

This is what happens when you cross a Wall Street junkie with 8 raised garden beds.  I tried.  For nearly two months I resisted the temptation to "organize" my garden, but alas, last week I broke down.  I know, it looks bad, but there is something to be said for having an action plan -- and putting my type A skills to use in the garden isn't the worst plan I've thought up.  This may actually be helpful: It's a map of what's currently in the garden (and the next round), and a diary of when it was planted, what varietal, and how frequently to succession plant.  When I was mastering Excel as an analyst at CSFB many years ago (probably to calculate year-on-year growth in industrial production in Argentina or to simulate the effective exchange rate produced by currency hedging strategies - FUN), I can't say I had the foresight to see its usefulness as a future novice farmer.  A transferable skill- we’re making progress.