A special pie with quince

Dutch recipe from the sixteenth century
Extra recipe - Quince Jelly

Picture of a quince tree from the 16th century.There is a growing interest for vegetables and fruit from the past.
Compared to, say the seventeenth century, the variety in apples, pears and plumbs has become less and less. Nowadays it is mainly those varieties that are easy to grow, have a high produce, and are resistant to diseases (and the used pesticides) that you can buy at the average greengrocer or supermarket. Luckily there are still idealists who are trying to conserve ancient varieties.
Quinces are -at least in the Netherlands- an almost forgotten fruit. They can still be bought, but you'll have to look for them.

The return of the quince

What are quinces? They belong to the same family as apples and pears, the Rosaceae. The scientific name of the quince is Cydonia oblonga. The fragrant fruit, covered with green-grey down, originates from the Caucasus. It was already greatly appreciated by the ancient Greeks. The quince was dedicated to Aphrodite, and it is presumed that the famous golden apple given to Aphrodite by Paris was in fact a quince.
Because of their fragrance quinces were used in perfumes and 'air fresheners'.
You can't eat raw quinces. They are very, very firm, and also very sour. Quinces are often cooked, but you can also roast them in the oven, like apples. Because the fruit contains a lot of pectine they are very suitable to be used in jellies.
Harvesttime is October/November, but you can keep quinces for a long time.

Medieval recipes with quinces

There are many several recipes for quinces in medieval cookbooks, and sometimes it isn't clear whether a recipe is for apples or quinces. Quinces were often used in the same manner as apples or pears, in pies or to make purée. They were cooked and conserved. They are so rich in pectine, that ground pips of quinces are used as coagulant in a red wine jelly.
The manuscript that the recipe for the cake was taken from (ms UB Gent 476), has more recipes for quinces, such as a pasty where the quinces are put in whole (recipe nr 42 and 171), they are made into a purée (recipe nr 112 and 116), and they are being stewed (recipe nr 195 and 222). The extended version of recipe 195 for stewed quinces stuffed with marow and raisins can be found here.

The original recipe
The original recipe, taken from ms UB Gent 476 (Edition p.107, recipe nr 120). The text is taken from the manuscript, the interpunction is from me.

Om een sonderlijnge taerte te maken.
Neempt quee appelen gesoden in schoon watere ofte peeren gebraden vj of vij, amandelen gepelt een vierendeel pont, versche wrongel een vierendeel pont, een hantvol rosijnen sonder steenen. Stootet tsamen wel cleyne ende soetet met suycker ende caneele ende ander cruyt tot uwer belieften, vj of vij doren van eyeren ende een vierendeel pont versche botere.
To make a special cake.
Take quinces, boiled in clean water, or pears roasted 6 or 7, a quearterpound peeled almonds, a quarterpound fresh curd, a handful of raisings without pips. Grind it well together and sweeten it with sugar and cinnamon and other spices to taste, 6 or 7 egg yolks and a quarterpound fresh butter.
Item wanneer dat ghij dese taerten maken wilt voor crancken menschen.
zo neempt inde stede vanden wrongel dat vleysch van een pertrijsse ofte kieken dat gesoden is, laetet cleyn stooten.
When you want to make this cake for sick people.
Then take instead of curd the boiled flesh of a partridge or chicken, and let it grind well.

Modern adaptation of the recipe Print the recipe
When you bake a pie it is supposed to have a crust. The recipe remains silent on this. That is not unusual in ancient cookbooks: everyone knew the stuffing was meant to be baked in a crust, and everyone knew how to make dough. It was considered superfluous to mention this, which is why there are so few contemporary dough recipes. By the way, often the crust of pasties and such were not meant to be eaten at all. They were used like serving dishes, and sometimes even re-used.
On this page you find several recpes for dough for savoury pasties. You can of course also use a recipe of your own. Just do me a favour and don't use frozen supermarket-dough.
For 6 large to 12 smaller slices.

The cake with quinces.

6 quinces (about 3 pounds)
125 gram (1 cup) ground almonds
125 gram (1/2 cup) quark or curd (soft curd cheese, NOT defatted)
125 gram (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at roomtemperature
75 gram (1/2 cup) raisins
50 gram (1/4 cup) sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. mixed spices (I used ginger, cardamom, all spice and cloves with a ratio of 10:4:1:1 -note: together one teaspoon-, but you can use another combination or ratio if you want to)
6 egg yolks
dough for the crust

Preparation in advance
Boil the peeled, cored and quartered quinces until soft (see the recipe for jelly below). meanwhile prepare the dough. Use a simple dough for pasties, with the addition of three tablespoons sugar.
According to the original recipe all ingrediënts for the stuffing must now be ground in a mortar, but I prefer to add the raisins later and keep them whole. So: Add everything except the raisins to a mortar or blender, and turn it into a purée.
The amounts given are sufficient for two large flat pies, or two springforms with a diameter of 22 cm. It is easy to make half the amount. However, if you want to make the quince jelly, you might want to make the full amount.

Carefully grease a low cake mould or a springform, and sprinkle some flour on the inside. Roll out the dough, drape it into the form. scoop the stuffing into the dough-clad form, and decorate the cake or pie to your fancy. Bake the cake in the oven (at 180 dgr C or 350 dgr F) for 40 to 50 minutes. Check whether the stuffing is done, remove the cake from the oven. Let the cake rest for five minutes, then take it out of the mould. Let the cake cool on a cake-rack.

To serve
What would be the ideal moment to serve a special cake as this? At tea-time of course, maybe as a special birthday treat, or as a (rich) dessert to finish a meal. Not necessarily with whipped cream. That was still very special in those days and was served as a separate dish.
If you decided to make the quince jelly too, you could compose a grand dessert, with (warm) pie, a spoonful of jelly, and cream, whipped with a few drops of rose water (no sugar). The recipe below for the quince jelly is two hundred years younger than the cake recipe, but there are also contemporary recipes to be found. I just fancied this one.

Extra recipe - Quince Jelly

According to the recipe for quince cake quinces must be boiled, pears roasted. I think you can use both methods for both kinds of fruit. If you have boiled your quinces, you can use this recipe to use the cooking liquid of the quinces.
This recipe is taken from a cookbook from the late eighteenth century, but recipes for quince jelly are to be found in all ages. There are medieval versions, but also recipes from the twentieth century. I took the proportions for quinces/water/sugar from Ma Cuisine (1934) by Auguste Escoffier.

The original recipe
This recipe was taken from Nieuwe Vaderlandsche Kookkunst from 1797 (edition p.131/132).

GELéE VAN QUEEëN, in een vorm
De queeën geschild zynde, snydt menze in stukjens, die men in water laat uittrekken: kookze vervolgends eenvoudig, naar gewoonte, gaar; doe voords het nat dat 'er op is door een zeef; roer 'er dan een pond suiker door, en laat het weder kooken tot het styf wordt; men moet onder dit kooken wèl op het schuimen passen: gaar zynde doet men de gelée in een vorm, die van binnen met amandelöly besmeerd is: laatze voords in de vorm koud worden, en keer dezelve dan op een assiet om.
Jelly of quinces, in a mould.
When de quinces are peeled, you cut them in pieces that you let stand in water. Then boil them simply, as usual, until done. Sieve the remaining cooking liquid [through a sieve], stir in a pound of sugar, and let this boil again until it becomes stiff. One should not forget to skim during boiling. When it is done you pour the jelly in a mould that has been greased on the inside with almond oil. Then let them cool in the mould, end turn this on a dish.

The quince jelly has a beautiful deep red colour.Ingredients
for every pound of quinces 1 liter (4 cups) water
for 1 liter water 800 gram (4 cups) sugar
neutral oil, or almond oil
a nice jelly mould

Preparation in advance
Wipe the down from the quinces and wash them. Peel, core and quarter the quinces. Immediately immerse them in cold water to prevent decolourisation. Measure the amount of water needed (for every pound of quinces one litre water). Keep the peel and cores, wrap them in a cheesecloth.
Boil the quinces until they are soft (30 minutes). Take the quinces out of the water, sieve the cooking liquid.

Return the sieved cooking liquid to the (cleaned) pan. Add the sugar and the cloth with peels and cores, and bring to the boil again. Skim regularly. Continue boiling the liquid at a low heat until it has thickened enough. You can check this by dropping a drop from the pan onto a cold plate. When the droplet maintains its convex form and doesn't run, the jelly is done. It took four hours when I made this jelly. You have to remain alert: if you stop to soon, the jelly will not be firm enough and keep running (but it will be very tasty!). On the other hand, if you leave the pan on the fire for too long, or the fire is too high, the sugar will burn and you end up with a bitter and unpalatable (and rock-hard) jelly.
Another method, which I have not tried myself (yet), is to place the pan in the oven on a very low temperature (60 degr.C) for several hours.
Grease one or more jelly-moulds with a neutral oil, and pour the warm jelly into it. Let cool completely. You can also pour a layer in a shallow greased dish and cut the jelly into lozenges.

To serve
Immerse the mould a short while in hot water. cover it with the serving dish, and turn mould and dish in one movement. If you are lucky, you'll end up with a beautiful ruby-coloured jelly on your plate. To be honest: I was not so lucky. At first the jelly absolutely refused to budge, and when I had immersed it longer, I ended up with an unattractive blob. Maybe, to be on the safe side, it is best to use a simple rectangular form, cover that with an oiled silicone sheet, and trying to cut that mass after cooling into little squares. It is super sticky, but the taste is wonderful.
This jelly is very rich. Only serve small amounts as garnish for desserts, or dish it out as candy.

These quinces make my kitchen smell wonderful.

How to keep quinces for a year

In ms UB Gent 476 you can find two ways to conserve quinces for a whole year. For most of us these methods will not be applicable, because you need some things that will not be found today in the average household.
When you have had a good quince year and despair what to do with them, start with conserving: You need a small cask. Cover the bottom with a layer of wine lees, lay down quinces in one layer, add more winelees, more quinces et cetera. Cover the cask with a lid, and keep in on a shelf.
Another method which can also be used to conserve grapes: Sieve the ashes from the hearth (or BBQ), lace the zuinces in such a way that they do not touch eachother, and cover them with the ashes. (edition p.104). I presume the quinces are in one layer.

All descriptions of ingredients

Quark - Very fresh cheese. Rennet is added to fresh milk, the coagulated milk is strained in a bag, the result is quark. The Germans also call it quark, the Dutch kwark. According to Wikipedia 'quark'is originally from the Slavic Twarog. The French just call it Fromage frais (fresh cheese).

The editions below are in my possession. Links refer to available editions.
All books mentioned on this site (with short reviews)

  • Manuscript UB Gent 476: Ria Jansen-Sieben and Johanna Maria van Winter, De keuken van de late Middeleeuwen (Bert Bakker, Amsterdam, 1998, second, revised edition; or. 1989)
  • Auguste Escoffier, Ma Cuisine (Sterling Publishing, 2001). I used a Dutch translation (HES uitg., 1988).
  • Nieuwe vaderlandsche kookkunst, Bevattende een volledig en grondig onderricht, om, naar den hedendaagschen smaak, toetebereiden allerleie soorten van spyzen [...], door twee in dit vak zeer ervarene huishoudsters. Johannes Allart, Amsterdam, 1797. Facsimile edition. C. de Vries-Brouwers, Amsterdam/Antwerpen, 1976