By Teage Ezard
This time of the year we start see at the markets winter fruits such as quinces, local citrus fruits, pears and apples.
One of the most popular fruits used at this time of the year is the quince. At this point in the season we see the best quince coming from Renmark in South Australia, also there are some filtering through to the markets from the Shepparton area.
The best fruit is picked when it is bright yellow and fragrant, before the fruit ages and becomes a golden and copper colour. The one thing to remember when choosing quinces is that it is extremely difficult to have choice of region or variety, as they are all classed under the one grade and are quite often part of a collective of growers.
Ensure quinces are bright yellow, firm, sweetly fragrant and have no signs of bruising, soft skin or insect activity. The size or shape of the fruit will have no bearing on the quality.
Before you trek out to purchase your quinces, you may give some quick thought as to what cooking application you wish to achieve with them.
If you want to prepare a jam or jelly you will need to purchase quinces high in pectin. These can be identified by their colour. Choose ones that have a slight green colour to them. These are generally more readily available at the beginning of the season which is now. I visit market stall 21-25 at the Queen Victoria Market, to purchase my quinces.
If you are thinking of baking, roasting, frying or my favourite, poaching, choose nice ripe yellow ones. Prepare quinces for roasting by slicing them into segments and cook as you would a root vegetable. These may be finished off with a drizzle of honey and cinnamon to accompany game or pork dishes. If you prefer the baking option, prepare the quinces whole, by wrapping them in foil and placing them in the oven on a bed of rock salt and baking until they are soft. Preparing quince this way, will make a terrific accompaniment to soft cheese and toasted walnut bread.
But my favourite way is to poach quinces in sugar and spice. Wash, peel and cut quinces into segments. Reserve the peelings. Clean the quince segments of seed and core and place into a saucepan of equal quantity sugar and water. Add some whole clove, cinnamon, star anise and dried mandarin peel. Tie the peelings in a muslin, place into the saucepan and cook long and slow until quinces turn ruby red. Accompany with thick cream, ice cream or custard.
Teage Ezard is the chef-owner of Ezard and Gingerboy.