I only noticed the crate of unusual fruits in the produce area because of a little crowd of elderly ladies that had gathered around it, and were exclaiming, "Oh, I hadn't seen a quince in so long!" Well, neither had I, and in fact, my children have never even seen a quince. Much less tasted the quince jelly or the quince confection cotognata that were so common when I was a child, especially around Christmas time. Whatever happened to this wonderful fruit?
Quince is a bit of an unappealing, humble looking fruit, ungracefully large and knobbly. It's got an intensely sweet, apple-like scent, but it's actually inedible unless you cook it first. But once cooked, this fruit has incredible properties: wonderful flavor and high-yield pulp, and high pectin content, which made it an essential part of home preserving. These days, though, quince is disappearing (at least in this country), with powdered pectin and the decline of home preserving and cooking, and a slower-paced lifestyle.
So that day in the grocery store, I bought three quince (total weight: over one kilo). And over a weekend I processed them: chopped and cored, and slow-cooked for over an hour in my copper pot until the pulp turned russet color. I let this quince mush strain overnight in a colander. Then I collected the liquid part to make jelly, which will be delicious with the mature sheep cheeses Tom and I are so fond of. I used the pulp to make a fragrant jam. And to my little list of rural dreams (donkeys to keep the grass short, goats for chèvre, an olive grove for oil) I added a couple of quince trees, for making jellies and jams.