Glyko Kithoni (Greek Quince Preserves)

What goes with Greek quince preserves? Greek yogurt!

What goes with Greek quince preserves? Greek yogurt!

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Enjoying this taste of Greece inspired the little guy and I to make some quickie Greek amphora-inspired prints. (The how-to is below.)

Enjoying this taste of Greece inspired the little guy and I to make some quickie Greek amphora-inspired prints. (The how-to is below.)

Quince is a fruit my family is still discovering — we often miss it entirely during its short fall season — but the more we get to know it, the more we’re impressed by its swagger. It’s been popular since ancient Greek and Roman times, a symbol of  love, fertility and life. In fact that “golden apple” that Paris awarded Aphrodite in the myth about the judgment of Paris was actually a quince. They do look a lot like apples and have a somewhat similar taste, although the flavor is a bit more floral and exotic. You might be tempted to just take a big bite, but it turns out that quince is totally inedible when raw — sour, woody and hard as a rock. When you cook them however, they totally transform: the color goes from a blah white to a gorgeous pinky-orange and they sweeten and soften and melt.

Last year about this time we experimented with quince by making  Deborah Madison’s roasted quince with honey, butter and cinnamon sticks (yum!) but this year we thought we might try something to celebrate quince’s proud Grecian heritage. We cooked up a simple preserve called Glyko Kithoni (In Greek: γλυκό κυδώνι, pronounced ghlee-KOH kee-THOH-nee). It’s about the easiest kind of preserving project you’ll find — the abundance of natural pectin in the fruit means that all you need to add is water, a touch of lemon juice, and sugar to suit your sweetness preference… perhaps some spices if you like things jazzy. Throw it all in a pot and cook it until it turns a gorgeous, glossy shade of coral and becomes jammy and spreadable. That’s it! It’s so delicious as a sweet spread for toast or waffles, but we’ve also been loving it as a topping for Greek yogurt.

Glyko Kithoni (Quince Preserves)

Ingredients: 3-4 quince, 1 lemon, water, whole spices (optional) — makes several cups

  1. Peel your quince then quarter them and remove the seeds/core as you would an apple. Depending on the consistency you prefer for your preserves (chunkier or smoother) cut the fruit into medium dice, small dice or grate them. We made thin slices using a mandolin cutter then stacked the slices and cut skinny matchsticks.
  2. Place your chopped quince in a pot and add enough water to reach the top of the fruit. Add a squeeze of lemon. Bring to a simmer and cook until quince is tender (it took us about 20 minutes, but will take longer if your fruit is in larger pieces). It will still be pale and watery, but will start to take on a pink-ish hue.
  3. Taste the fruit and add sugar a little at a time (try 1/4 cup increments) until you like how sweet it is. You may also add a few whole spices such as clove, cinnamon stick or peppercorns or a few pinches of ground spices. Go sparingly with the spices so you don’t overwhelm the quince’s delicate flavor (a couple of whole cloves to 3-4 quince will do). The seeds scraped from a vanilla bean would be divine.
  4. Continue to simmer, stirring from time to time until the jam has deepened in color and has thickened (ballpark on timing would be 45 minutes to an hour). Taste and correct the flavor then follow your favorite instructions for canning, refrigerate and eat right away… or freeze in a freezer safe container.

Quickie Greek Amphora-Inspired Prints

The little guy and I made these prints using one of our favorite materials….scratch foam. This is loads of fun for adults as well as kids and would be an entertaining pit stop on a pretend play date trip to ancient Greece. Just google “Greek Amphora” and you’ll find lots of examples for inspiration.

  • Trace an amphora shape onto the scratch foam and cut it out (an adult will probably need to do the cutting or at least assist).
  • Using a sharp pencil or ballpoint pen, make designs. Be sure to press hard so that your printed image will be crisp — if little ones have a hard time doing this, you can go over their lines once they’ve finished their designs.  Remember your print will be a mirror image of your inscribed design so you will need to write backwards if you are including words!
  • Place your inscribed scratch foam on some scrap paper and “ink” the image using acrylic paint (you need a paint with a thick consistency so it can adhere to the foam). A cheap wide foam brush works well for applying the paint, a brayer works even better. Make sure you have a nice thin, even layer of paint over your entire design. Brush away any thick areas or globs.
  • Carefully pick up your foam and place it ink side down on your paper. Place a scrap paper over the foam and press down evenly to ensure good contact between the foam and your paper. Make sure to press gently along the edges, too. Carefully peel back the foam and enjoy your masterpiece. You can make additional prints by repeating the same inking/printing process, rinsing and drying the scratch foam as necessary if things get messy.

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Quince: Where Have You Been All My Life?

I’m not sure why we have missed out on quince all these years. I had a vague notion that they they were like a pithier apple — something that needed to be preserved or cooked for long periods of time. Something about quince seemed old-fashioned and fussy and therefore not on my radar. Funny thing is, we almost always buy boughs of quince blossoms this time of year to decorate our home for the Lunar New Year, but so far we have totally ignored the actual fruit.

So the other day were doing a little produce shopping and Luca saw a great pile of sunny, yellow quince and asked “what’s that, mom?”. I mistook them for papaya at first, but then soon realized these were the elusive quince. I’m not sure I had a notion of what they looked like, and so was surprised at both their color and shape. We took a smell and I was completely taken by how beautiful the aroma is. You could/should make perfume from the stuff. It’s heavenly. We snapped some up and then scoured our cookbooks to find a recipe.

Deborah Madison to the rescue! Simran, Ria and I attended a fabulous potluck last year with Deborah, hosted by 18 Reasons and Onmivore Books (a book tour stop to support her new “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” cookbook). I was lucky enough to sit next to Deborah that night – and nervous that she would be tasting my rendition of her chard and saffron tart! Both Simran and I of course immediately added this dessert book to our respective collections. It’s a great one for anyone who wants to showcase fruit throughout the year and for anyone living with sweet-tooths like my son. The recipes range from simple to elaborate. She gives ideas for fruit and cheese pairings, fruit-based sauces, and condiments as well as cakes, tarts and other deliciousness. The book includes two wonderful quince recipes including “nearly candied quince” that you roast and enjoy on it’s own or in concert with your favorite apples and pear desserts.

I opted for her braised quince with honey, cinnamon and wine. The Atlantic published the recipe, and you can find it here (but do yourself a favor and check out the book, too).  The recipe is ridiculously simple and utterly delicious — so simple that you can make this on even the busiest of nights when you want a little something special to end your meal. Case in point: I was able to pull this one off on a hectic Monday night amidst the distractions of a 2-week old infant and preschooler (while cooking dinner)! You don’t even need to peel or core the quince, just wash and slice the fruit and chuck it in a baking dish with the other ingredients and throw at all in the oven. Even though the fruit is braised with wine, it will appeal to young dessert fans too — anyone who likes the middle of an apple pie.

I’m a believer now. Quince rules!