I have been hoarding a platter of yellow quinces on my desk for the past few weeks, not because these knobbly fruits are especially beautiful to look at but rather as a source of deep olfactory pleasure. Tantalized by their fruity-floral aroma of pineapple, pear, and roses, I was almost convinced that cooking the quinces would be a shame ... until I got them into a pot and onto a spoon.
I wanted to make something that we could enjoy for Thanksgiving next week, and so this spiced quince chutney was born. When cooked down, the quince's dry, woody flesh takes on a delightful jammy texture and amber color. I included some plump dried cherries as a sweet complement to the quince's spicy pear-like quality, while brown sugar and apple cider vinegar give the chutney its sweet-sharp flavor.
As the heady aroma of the simmering chutney fills the kitchen, you may be tempted to dig into it as soon as it's finished cooking. But for the best flavor, let it sit in the fridge for a few days to mellow and deepen. I plan to serve the chutney on a cheese platter and alongside the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner. It would also make a heavenly spread for grilled cheese sandwiches or quick puff pastry appetizers.
Makes about 3 cups
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 pounds quinces (about 3), peeled, cored, and diced*
1/2 cup dried Bing (or other sweet) cherries, chopped
1 1/2 cups loosely packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 green cardamom pods, crushed
3 black peppercorns, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
Heat the canola oil in a deep, non-reactive (stainless steel or enamel) saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are translucent.
Add remaining ingredients to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about an hour or until the consistency is thick and jammy.
Serve chutney at room temperature.
May be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
*Note: One way to do this is to use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Then, with a chef's knife, cut the fruit in half lengthwise and cut each half into 3-4 wedges. Use a paring knife to cut out the core. Then dice with the chef's knife. The fruit will oxidize and brown quickly, but this is not a problem when making chutney.
(Images: Emily Ho)