Saturday, September 16, 2017

To Make Quidinia of Quinces (Delights for Ladies, Sir Hugh Platt, 1600)

Dry Peaches and Red Quince Paste Served at Curia Regis 9/10/2017
My adventures in making fruit pastes began in late 2014 when I started experimenting with Quince. At the time I was just beginning to find a passion for Medieval confectionary and that has grown as I have branched out to make additional fruit pastes, comfits, and candied fruit and preserve flowers and other assorted "Elizabethan Banqueting" dishes. 

I have experimented with making golden quince paste and red quince paste.  I have a confession to make; I don't particularly care for the flavor of quince.  So this particular paste was made with mostly quince, but I did at two apples and two pears to it to up the flavor a little bit.  When I make my fruit pastes I do make them in very large batches and store them in my fridge to give away as gifts or use in feasts throughout the year.  When I was asked to cook for the Curia Regis brunch I knew that one of the items I was going to feature was quince paste.  I had several large sheets that I had previously made. One I cut into a dragon and gilded, letting the kids and their friends enjoy the cut outs from the sheet of paste and it was gone very quickly! The other I cut into squares and served either sugared or plain.  The picture above shows plain paste without additional sugar. 

I was astonished while shopping for this brunch to discover that in my area a quarter pound of any fruit paste is sold by a large grocery chain for $6.00!!  Folks, you don't need to pay that much for it - make your own! But this discovery has prompted me to examine a little bit more closely the probability of setting up a booth at a local farmers market next year for some extra income...shhhh!

Delights for Ladies (Sir Hugh Platt, 1600) 28. To Make Quidinia of Quinces - Take the kernells out of eight great Quinces, and boile them in a quart of spring water, till it come to a pinte, then put into it a quarter of a pinte of Rosewater, and one pound of fine Sugar, and so let it boile till you see it come to bee of a deepe colour: then take a drop, and drop it on the bottome of a sawcer, then let it run through a gelly bagge into a bason, then set it in your bason upon a chafing dish of coles to keep it warm, then take a spoone, and fill your boxes as full as you please, and when they be colde cover them: and if you please to printe it in moldes, you must have moldes made to the bigness of your boxe, and wet your moldes with Rosewater, and so let it run into your mold, and when it is colde turne it off into your boxes. If you wette your moldes with water, your gelly will fall out of them.

Recipe

2 to 2 1/2 pounds of quinces (I also used apples and pears)
Water to cover the fruit
2-3 cups (or more) of sugar

Wash, peel and core your fruit, wrap the peels and the cores of the fruit into cheesecloth.  You will be adding this to the pan of your fruit because that is where some of the color and pectin will be coming from.  Coarsely chop the fruit and place it and the cheesecloth wrapped discards into the pan and bring to a boil.  Allow the fruit to cook until it is very soft.  Remove the discards and place the fruit into a food processor and puree.  Alternatively you could push it through a fine grained sieve or use a ricer or food mill.  

You do want to make sure that your pulp is strained through a sieve back into the pot to remove any large lumps that might not have been caught.  The finer the pulp the smoother the fruit paste. Add your sugar to your pulp and bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer constantly stirring until the paste becomes very thick. You should be able to make a furrow with your spoon and see the bottom of your pan.  The longer the fruit cooks the redder it gets. 

Pour your paste onto a lightly oiled bit of parchment paper that has been placed into a 9x13" baking dish or a cookie sheet.  You will want something with a bit of a raised side. The thicker your paste the longer it will take to dry.  I usually try to make my paste at 3/4 to an Inch in height.  Traditionally your paste was put in a cupboard to dry but we have ovens that we can use.  Heat your oven to its lowest setting (mine is 175 degree's) and put your paste into it.  Depending on humidity and thickness of your paste and the amount of moisture left in it, drying can take as little as a few hours up to four or five days.  The paste should be dry but sticky to the touch.  You will need to turn it at least once partway through the drying process. 

Store your fruit paste in an air tight container in a cool dry place.  I use my refrigerator and have a drawer dedicated to it.  The longer the paste sits the darker and richer the color becomes.  I have stored the paste for as long as a year and I suspect it could last longer if stored properly.  The Quince Paste pictured above was made in December 2016.  Isn't it beautiful?