Unfortunately over the last year or so the garden has been very much neglected. Life seems to get in the way of pleasure, and the weeds have become overwhelming!
However, the beautiful old quince tree that I wrote about a bit over three and half years ago, has ignored my neglect and provided us with a bountiful crop this year.
I approached with caution, given that in past years codling moth has proved to be a huge problem rendering the majority of the fruit useless! But this year we were surprised to see a much smaller infestation, leaving us with a good quantity of fruit to be put to use.
Anyone who has dealt with quinces in the past, knows that the scrubbing, pealing, coring, and where necessary, removal of the codling moth infestation, can only be called a labour of love! For, surely, anyone who did not like quinces, or goodies made from quinces, would not bother with the task!
This year we have added the following to our larder, Spiced, Pickled Quinces, the obvious – Quince Jelly,
and, our favourite, Quinces in Orange and Cardamon Syrup, for which I have subsequently misplaced the recipe – oh the frustration! I am sure that it will materialize again, one day and then I can share it with everyone, as it is absolutely delicious and perfect for an Upside Down Orange Cardamon Cake
and even more delicious with my mum’s Baked Custard.
Mum’s Baked Custard is the BEST, never watery and sets so that it can be cut into nice squares for serving, and it is delicious! Whenever I was going home, she would always ask what she could make for me – my response was always “Your baked custard, please!”. I am sure that she knew even before asking… One day, I asked her how she made it? The answer was so simple! She simply doubled the amount of eggs required. So now, we, and you, can enjoy this simple light treat that is perfect served simply with poached seasonal fruit, particularly Quinces in Orange and Cardamon Syrup, and if you must, a little double cream on the side!
No-one could make baked custard like mum. Whenever I went home she always asked what I would like her to make for me - it got to the stage that she didn't have to ask, it was waiting for me when I arrived!
One day I asked her for the recipe and she simply told me that all she did was to double the amount of eggs.
- 6 eggs
- 75 g caster sugar
- 500 ml milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- grated nutmeg
- butter to grease the dish
Preheat oven to 180˚C (160˚C fan-forced).
Lightly grease a deep square ovenproof baking dish with butter.
Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl.
Add the milk and vanilla bean paste to the egg and sugar mixture, and whisk to combine.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with nutmeg.
Place the dish in a large roasting tin and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the dish.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, until set.
Allow to cool before serving.
- To test - slip a knife into the custard and if it shows a cut when the knife is gently drawn sideward, the custard is cooked.
- Serve with stewed seasonal fruit.
The Spiced, Pickled Quinces recipe is from a National Trust book that I was given when we moved to the country. The book, Good Old-Fashioned Jams, Preserves and Chutneys by Sara Paston-Williams is a wonderful resource for those who love to preserve their excess produce. These quinces are delicious with chèvre and prosciutto on top of crostini, but as she suggests, also pairs well with roast pork, duck, game, terrines, and cheese.
This pickle is great with pork and duck, ham, pâtes and terrines, as well as cheese. It is amazing with chèvre.
- 8 quinces
- Cold water to cover
- 2 tsp sea salt
- coriander seeds
- cumin seeds
- white wine or cider vinegar
Wash the quinces and rub off any fluff from the skins.
Peel and core the quinces, retaining the skins and cores (see note below).
Cut each quince into eight pieces and place them in a pan.
Cover with water and add the salt, then bring to the boil.
Simmer for about 10 minutes, then strain the liquid from the fruit, and retain both the liquid and the fruit.
Return the fruit to the pan.
Measure the cooking liquid into another pan, and for every 600 ml (1 pint), add 450g (1 lb) sugar, 150 ml (1/4 pint) vinegar, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds and 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, both of which have been gently roasted in a frying pan.
Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, and then simmer for 5 minutes.
Pour the liquor over the quinces and bring to the boil.
Simmer gently for 45 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the quince pieces to warm, sterilised jars.
Continue cooking the liquor for a further 10 minutes, until you have a syrup that covers the back of a spoon.
Pour the syrup over the quince pieces and seal the jars.
Allow the pickle to sit for a month before using.
- Store in a cool, dark place.
- Adapted from Spiced Quinces "Good Old-Fashioned Jams, Preserves and Chutneys", 2008, Sara Paston-Williams, National Trust Books, p60.
- Use the cores and peal to make Quince Jelly.
The old quince tree has done us proud this year and is about to head into dormancy for the colder months. The leaves are turning from green to a beautiful golden hue and then brown, before gently falling to the ground creating a carpet below. Soon the limbs will be bare, that is until it warms up again, and a burst of new leaves and beautiful flowers herald a new season ahead.
Until next time
- Good Old Fashioned Jams, Preserves and Chutneys, by Sara Paston-Williams, National Trust Books, 2008 edition.
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