It was time to process most of the quinces – some had turned brown, and it appears they were just plain rotting, rather than bletting (like I mentioned in the Quince post). So I enlisted my 14yo minion to peel and core and roughly chop almost all of the remaining quinces. Now I’m a nice taskmaster, so I provided her with an apple peeling machine AND an apple corer. She worked diligently for several hours (while I was gone) – the hard flesh of the quince takes some work to tame. She was instructed to toss the bad bits, but put all the peels and cores in a cheesecloth bag, and simmer them along with the quince chunks. When I came home, there were two big pots of quince, each with a bag of peels & cores. (She even went on and made some applesauce, using the funnel shaped food press.)
The cooked quince chunks were removed, and the liquid strained and set aside. That first pot of liquid was VERY, VERY viscous. It was quite obvious that there was a lot of pectin in there. I decided we needed some more, less thick quince water to dilute it some. So the peels & cores got a second batch of water, with the apple peels & cores added. After a second water bath for the quince chunks, to get them even softer, they were mashed, and then put though the above mentioned food press. I thought about recooking the stringy remains that wouldn’t go through the tiny holes, and putting it back thru, but instead, decided the chickens needed some quince treats too.
The cheesecloth bag of peels was hung up to drip. We squeezed it some, but it was very slimy with pectin. In the end, after several water baths, I have 2 quarts of apple/quince juice, and 3 quarts of pure quince juice. Those still await jelly making. (But I waited too long, and the apple/quince juice went off.)
But today’s topic is what we did with all the quince pulp. I vaguely remembered historical recipes about quince, and making them into a dry candy like substance. So I started by googling, and then following this Quince Paste Fruit Preserve recipe.
We had 4 cups of paste, and no good way to weigh it, so added 4 cups of sugar. And then both the 14yo and 18yo minion took turns stirring, for that pulp and sugar was to cook for at least 90 minutes. When it seemed done enough, we poured it into a large greased tart dish, and let it cool overnight. The recipe said the paste should be at least 1.5 inches thick.
Now I think this was where we went wrong. Then next day, it I tried to flip it out of the pan, it came not as a solid, but as a sticky blob, masquerading as a circle. So the minion cleaned out the dehydrator, and I cut the sticky stuff into 2 inch-ish squares, about 1 inch thick, and put it in the dehydrator at 125 degrees, on some freezer paper, since my Teflon sheets were not fit for further use. Twelve hours later, flip each piece, cut in half again, back into the dehydrator on fresh freezer paper. And again. And again. They were by now quince fingers, about the size of a green bean. I’ve been thinking about dusting the fingers with powered or granulated sugar to finish them off. (They are tasty right now as is.) Before I took the next step, I decided to consult my period cookbook.
I once owned both Vol 1 and Vol 2 of Cindy Renfrow’s Take a Thousand Eggs or More, but somewhere along the line, volume one, with the redacted recipes, took a hike. So lets see what Vol. 2 has to offer. (I will note that Renfrow’s book is worth getting, even vol 2 that doesn’t have redacted recipes. What it does have is normalized modern English spelling alongside the original spellings. However, her major source appears to be Two fifteenth-century cookery-books. Harleian ms. 279 (ab. 1430), & Harl. ms. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole ms. 1429, Laud ms. 553, & Douce ms. 55 by Thomas Austin, printed 1888, and available on the Internet Archive.)
The recipe for Chardwardon, from Harleian MS 4016 #179, (dated about 1450) is the most similar. I see I failed by using water instead of good unfermented beer for the cooking liquid. Interestingly, the half pulp/half sugar proportion is also reflected in the period manuscript. But at the end, the Chardwardon recipe suggested adding some powdered ginger and cinnamon. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to use granulated sugar, or powdered sugar, so I tried both. I added 1 Tbsp of powdered ginger and 1 Tbsp of powdered cinnamon to 1 cup of granulated sugar, and the same amount of ginger & cinnamon to about 3/4 cup of powdered sugar. (It was the rest of the bag.) For comparison, I also tried some plain granulated sugar. I tried rolling the fingers, to make them more round, before tossing in the sugar, but either the shape didn’t change, or it squished the softer insides out all over my hand. Here, you can see my first samples. The powdered sugar seemed to stick too thickly, and the granulated sugar not enough. So I mixed the spiced sugars together, and coated the rest of the quince candies. The mix seems to be perfect, in terms of the right amount of adhering to the outsides. Then back into the dehydrator once more, but this time with no paper, just sitting on the mesh, hopefully to dry more fully all the way around. Then I shall pack with the remaining cinnamon/ginger/sugar mix, in airtight containers, and have treats to share at events this winter. It is supposed to be good for the digestion, according to the manuscript.