Pickled quince with cime di rapa and bottarga
I’m not sure how many varieties of quinces there are but I know there are shitloads. This recipe is about trying to use things during a glut, like making passata when you have excess tomatoes.
One technique for cooking quinces is to do it slowly with a lot of sugar. I prefer to heighten the sourness inherent in the quince, and to preserve them with spices.
This recipe treats quince as a savoury item, almost as a vegetable. I like to use a variety called “Orange”. They are more compact and don’t go floury, as some quinces do.
Quinces are probably more open than any other fruit to blemishes. They get fleck and mould and insect attack. I remember speaking to an old CSIRO guy who had heaps of quince varieties on his property. I asked him what he sprayed them with. He said, “Just the standard stuff.” I asked if he meant chemicals and he said, “Well, everything is a chemical.” It was as minimal as possible.
When buying quinces, a few imperfections are a good sign that the fruit has experienced fewer chemicals and industrialised processes. Quinces, like apples, because of their varieties, have a fairly long season. By the time you work from the top of Victoria down to the foot of Tasmania, and through all the varieties, you should have almost three months of fresh fruit.
Once you have the quinces pickled, you have a readymade salad. I like to serve these with hardier greens. In this recipe I’ve used cime di rapa. Rocket could work – or anything peppery and mustardy that can hold its own. Mayonnaise-based things such as fennel or celeriac remoulade would also work.
If you don’t feel like a salad, this quince makes a great condiment. Almost treat it like mint sauce. Or it could be served simply with cheese.
- 2 lemons
- 4 quinces
- 400ml white floral wine, such as riesling
- 200g raw sugar
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 6 bay leaves (preferably fresh)
- 6 black peppercorns
- 200ml white wine vinegar
- 2 bunches of young cime di rapa
- 1 lobe of bottarga, preferably Pilu Bottarga di Muggine
- 1 shallot (peeled)
- 120ml olive oil
- Prepare a bowl or bucket containing two litres of water and two lemons cut in half. Peel the quinces as you would an apple, then cut them into quarters lengthways, remove the core and place in the lemon water.
- Put the wine into a pot and burn off the alcohol by boiling briefly before adding the sugar and the spices. Place the quinces in the pot, cover with greaseproof paper and cook over a very gentle heat for 10 minutes or until the quinces just cook through. Add the vinegar and then bring it all back to the boil.
- Spoon the quinces into sterilised pickling jars, then pour in the liquid and secure the lid before steaming the entire vessel for about three minutes.
- Allow the jars to cool on the bench before storing at between 4ºC and 12ºC. These pickled quinces, if prepared correctly, will keep for months in those conditions.
- To serve: slice one quarter of quince per person and place it on the base of a plate. Slice two thirds of the bottarga thinly and reserve. Blend the rest of the bottarga with 100 millilitres of the pickling liquid, the raw shallot and the olive oil using a handheld blender.
- Place a cast-iron pan over a high heat then grease the pan with oil. Place a single layer of the cime di rapa in the pan, then cook untouched for about two minutes. The leaves should begin to toast lightly. Turn the leaves, then remove from the pan. Repeat the process until all of the leaves have a nice toast on them. Season lightly then dress in some of the quince and bottarga dressing. Spread the quince on top and then scatter over the bottarga.
- This salad serves well as lunchtime starter or tossed together as a main course accompaniment.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 7, 2018 as "Quince farming".
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