Nettle & Quince in October

Quinces! And pears and medlars too.

After the mild whirlwind of September, cool October settles in. It is a good time to breathe and occupy the kitchen, there are so many things to make! Some offer a recurring pattern — soups, things preserved, chard — others are new things, noted amid the bustle of autumn. Sometimes an old recipe begs to be revisited. The temptations are many, and now there is less hurry.

Already the month tilts toward the holidays, in our house, an inexorable onslaught starting with Hallowe’en, then Thanksgiving, St Nicolas and Christmas, and New Year’s, with two or three birthdays in between. October is a pause, an opportunity. A composing.

And in the respite, there is quince. Last year I missed quince season entirely. October apparently came and went and quinces passed me by (still a brow-furrowing mystery.) This is different. After a friend dejectedly reported, a couple of weeks ago, that the harvest from her heavily laden tree had been entirely destroyed by the September rain, I hurried to buy the first quinces that appeared. Thinking that it might be my only opportunity, this batch was immediately transmogrified into the indispensable pair: quince jelly and quince paste — here, one never goes without the other. But an unforeseen change of plans and generous gift from another friend finds me with a second enormous bag.

What shall I make with all the quince? Here are some contenders —

More quince recipes, sweet and savoury, from Nettle & Quince.

Simply caramelized, adapted from Paula Wolfert [Grub Street], for stews or a bowl of tart yogurt.

And lo! I have discovered quince ratafia — another liqueur to add to my witch’s cabinet. It is alcohol infused with grated quince, sugar, and occasionally some spice. How has this escaped me for so long?! I have found a few recipes online, inlcuding here and here. I will try it and report back.

// More things to make and read //

But, apparently, quince is not the only fruit in autumn. Bee Wilson contends that ’The pear is the prince of fruits. You just need to know when to eat them’ [Financial Times]. Blink once and I may be tempted to agree.

If so, then this recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book Jerusalem is one of my favourite [via Bon Appétit]. Unexpected in its simplicity, it is practically perfect.

Or a dairy- (and optionally gluten-)free Pear and almond cake with honey and cardamom chanced upon last year. [N&Q]

And medlars. Earlier this year, my sister sent me this fascinating article about medlars [BBC]. It has sparked somewhat of an obsession. The trees are peculiarly beautiful, and I am already beholden to medlar jam, of which I’ve received a few (precious!) jars in recent years. Now that I have tracked down the fruit, I’m impatiently waiting for them to soften and become bletted, and will try my own hand.

After the respite, Hallowe’en is just around the corner. One last thing! Can’t resist these sausage mummies — they’re brilliant.

Let the season begin.