Friday December 21, 2012

Quince looks like a cross between an apple and a pear. If you have ever seen old-time recipes for jams and jellies, you will see at the onset that quince jelly was prepared more than any other. That’s because quince is very high in pectin and our fore-"mothers" didn’t need a thickening agent to "put up" jars of this aromatic fruit. If you have ever cooked with quince, or plan on it, you will notice that if you cook it long enough either in the oven or on the stove top, the flesh turns red. Don’t worry, it is just a natural cycle and does not ruin the taste. FYI, do you know what "marmalade" really means? Hahaha, look it up (as my father always told me). In the meantime, enjoy my version of a Baked Stuffed Apple. A little different but oh so sticky!

Yankee, Sticky Quince

If quince is not your thing, this recipe is easily incorporated using fresh apples instead. The sweet sap of fruit and scent of cloves will make you feel as though you are in your grandmothers house, with the woodstove burning hot and the sound of her shuffling across the kitchen floor while "grampy" climbs the steps of the cellar, having just taken a swig of his hidden bottle downstairs. (Of course, Grammy let on she didn’t know a thing, but her quick glance and even quicker grin to us kids told a different story). Those are the memories I cherish.

4 quinces

1/4 cup fresh cranberries

1/4 cup apple cider or juice

1 cup mincemeat

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Cut quince in two pieces. The bottom should be about 3/4 of the fruit, with the top being a quarter, where the stem is. Discard the top. In a small saucepan, add the cranberries and apple juice. Put over medium-high heat with a lid ajar to let steam out but stop the splattering while cooking. Boil 2 1/2-3 minutes, or until cranberries have become soft. Remove from heat, stir and let sit for 3 minutes. Remove the cranberries from the liquid into a bowl. Add the mincemeat, stir to combine. Set aside the cooking liquid from the cranberries. In another bowl, combine and mix the brown sugar, ginger and cloves; set aside.

With a paring knife peel, core and empty most of quince flesh, leaving half an inch wall around the outside on both top and bottom pieces. I carved my quince straight down each side just for decorative purposes but I recommend(at least the first time you do this) to leave the quince in its natural shape. Spray the outside with cooking spray and roll in brown sugar mixture. Spray a baking pan or pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Place the sugar coated quinces in the pan and fill each with the mincemeat/cranberry mixture. Sprinkle an remaining brown sugar mixture over the top and bake for 40-50 minutes until quince/apple is nicely browned but still firm to the touch. Remove from oven and onto serving plates. Pour some of the cranberry liquid and maple syrup over the top of each and serve war.

Chef Jim Baley -- The Yankee Chef -- is a noted food columnist, cookbook author and the foremost New England Food Historian. He is a third generation chef and historian and lives in Maine with his wife and four children. He welcomes feedback at theyankeechef@aol.com.