When wine tasting we often try to recognise aromas in wine and one of the most commonly cited aromas in Chenin Blanc is quince. This old fashioned fruit is similar to the pear - knobbly and impossible to cut, it has a similar aroma although a little more exotic.
I had a quince tree when I lived in the South of England and despite being a keen cook, never did anything with the fruit giving them instead to my elderly neighbour who made them into quince jelly. Preserving is a bit old-fashioned - at least that's what I thought before I moved to France.
Here, it seems everybody makes jams, jellies and preserves. Fruit from the garden is eaten fresh in season and preserved for the winter months. I was given a few kilos by a friend this summer and decided it was time to have a go.
Firstly, I peeled the quinces and put the peelings into a large demi-john along with a litre of eau de vie. Then, I cut the quinces up (shere brut force required here - they are rock solid) put the pips and cores in a muslin square and cut the remaining fruit into slices. All this went into a large casserole into which I poured enough water to cover, brought to the boil and simmered for several hours.
Some of the cooked fruit I put into a tart with a frangipane base, the remaining fruit I pureed, added sugar and boiled again to make quince paste. I strained the liquid remaining from the boiled fruit and added sugar making a jelly with this.
A bit of a fiddle you may say, and yes, I suppose it was, but for a few kilos of fruit that cost nothing I made delicous jelly to spread on fresh crusty bread or to serve with roasted meats, quince paste to eat with cheese, a most delicious take on a traditional pear tart with more colour and flavour and a bottle and a half of quince eau de vie that I decanted off the peelings only yesterday.
And, I am now able to recognise the aroma of quince in many of our delicious Chenin Blanc wines from the Loire valley. We are only able to pick up individual aromas if they are within our own experience. I think I've finally nailed it!