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Posts Tagged ‘garden’

Winter is reluctant to give up her icy crown…

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quince marmalade www.paulawalton.com

For me the sharp tang of quince marmalade captures the essence of a New England autumn.  I am fortunate enough to have multiple varieties of quince growing around my property.  We purchased our house on a late autumn day in 1990.  The following spring brought daily surprises as we identified new plants emerging from their deep winter sleep.  In May the enormous shrub, growing just outside our kitchen windows, burst into a glorious explosion of deep  pink blooms.  The reflected glow from the blossoms turned the kitchen into a rosy wonderland.  I loved it, and had absolutely no clue what type of bush it was!  I’d never seen anything like it in the Midwest.  After making inquiries of some of our neighbors, who are lifelong Connecticut residents, I learned that we owned a quince bush.

The deep reddish pink blossoms on the left are from the quince bush that grows outside our kitchen windows.

The deep reddish pink blossoms on the left are from the quince bush that grows outside our kitchen windows.

After doing a bit of research I learned that flowering quince bushes like ours are not true quince.  Flowering quince is a group of three hardy, deciduous shrubs: Chaenomeles cathayensis, Chaenomeles japonica, and Chaenomeles speciosa , in the family Rosaceae. Native to eastern Asia in Japan, China and Korea, flowering quince is related to the orchard quince (Cydonia oblonga), which is grown for its edible fruit, and the Chinese quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis). Flowering quince is often referred to as Japanese quince.

Almost harvset time.  Our quince are never beautiful, as we garden organically and are quite frankly negectful orchard keepes... I comfort myself with the thought that 200 years ago quince would not have been perfect and pest free.

Almost harvest time. Our quince are never beautiful, as we garden organically and are quite frankly neglectful orchard keepers… I comfort myself with the thought that 200 years ago quince would not have been perfect and pest free.

Somewhere along the way, my search for information about flowering quince turned into an obsession with true quince trees, their place in history and early 18th and 19th century receipts (recipes) for cooking quince.  In 1908, 14 varieties of common quince were being grown the United States, but by the start of the 21st century that number had shrunk to four or five cultivars that are still widely planted.  When I was searching for quince trees to plant, I wanted older varieties.  Initially I planted Orange and Van Deman trees, and later added  a few Smyrna.

The heavy fruit had bowed this branch of from our quince tree almost to the ground.

The heavy fruit had bowed this branch of from our quince tree almost to the ground.

The varying varieties of quince trees produce fruits with distinct flavors, shapes, and scents, much like different types of apple varieties (although no apple has the intoxicatingly lovely fragrance that ripe quince has).  Some years I keep the fruit pick separated by variety when I cook and other years I don’t.  I love them all and the rest of my family can’t really distinguish the difference between  Van Deman and Orange or Smyrna, although they can tell them apart from the fruits of the flowering quince bushes.

Some of my favorite things about quince are the fact that quince marmalade was actually the first kind of marmalade, the more familiar citrus marmalades came later in culinary history.  Another bit of trivia that I love is the fact that some people think that the apple Eve gave to Adam in the garden of Eden was actually a quince.  Aside from history, I would grow quince just so that I could have a bowlful of them scenting the air in my house every fall!  The fact that they have beautiful blossoms, produce amazing edible fruit, and are related to roses are all just bonuses 🙂

Here is my favorite receipt for Quince Marmalade which is taken from The Williamsburg Art of Cookery which may be purchased online here :

quince marmalade www.paulawalton.comQuince Marmalade

Boil the quinces in water until soft, let them cool, and rub all the pulp through a sieve: put two pounds of it to one of sugar, pound a little cochineal, sift it through fine muslin, and mix with the quince to give a colour; pick out the seeds, tie them in a muslin bag, and boil them with the marmalade; when it is a thick jelly, take out the seeds , and put in pots.

I usually pick the fruits from my quince bushes and make them into juice, by slowly simmering them with just enough water to cover, mashing them, then straining the juice.  Then I use the juice, along with thinly sliced quince from my trees to make the marmalade.  This year I read a recipe that called for grating the quince, instead of slicing it.  It worked very well and went much faster, as you do not need to peel the quince before grating.

Slowly cooked quince usually turns a lovely pinkish, red color on it’s own.  If is doesn’t you can add a drop of food coloring, rather than the cochineal.

Quinces are very high in pectin, so you usually do not need to add any, other than your quince seeds in a muslin bag :), but if you are worried about your marmalade setting up, the new Ball brand powdered pectin is very easy, flexible and forgiving to use.  It also lets you easily adjust for varying size batches of marmalade, jam and jelly.

One of the best  simple pleasures on a cool, crisp fall morning is warm toast, made over an open flame.  I especially love making toast with the toasting fork that my son, Blair, made for me <3

One of the best simple pleasures on a cool, crisp fall morning is warm toast, made over an open flame. I especially love making toast with the toasting fork that my son, Blair, made for me ❤

My son,Colin and daughter-in-law, JungHwa brought me quince tea from South Korea.  You could make a similar tea by infusing a spoonful of quince marmalade and a dab of honey in hot water.

My son,Colin and daughter-in-law, JungHwa brought me quince tea from South Korea. You could make a similar tea by infusing a spoonful of quince marmalade and a dab of honey in hot water.

 

The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are.”
Pussy said to the Owl “You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?”
Said the Piggy, “I will”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

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Lenten Rose

Spring is coming at last.  Yesterday we braved the remnants of Friday’s snowstorm to prune our grapevines.  Nature provided a sweet reward with the first hellebore flowers of the year.

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