I’d thought about making Pickled Quinces yesterday but opted for something more comforting. Mrs. McAuslan contributed this recipe to The New Galt Cook Book (1898) for the Pickles section. There are several recipes using quinces in this cook book so I was happy to find some at the Kitchener Market on Saturday.
So what are quinces? Well, they are a fruit that grows on trees and they are related to apples and pears. However, I can’t imagine ever biting into a quince the way I do with apples and pears. The quince is very hard and sour — almost bitter or astringent — and yet it has a wonderful perfumed aroma. I haven’t worked with this fruit in two years and I’d forgotten just how difficult they can be to peel and cut. I peeled a large quince and then started trying to cut it into quarters and finally eighths. The fruit is very hard so I was a little scared I’d cut myself as I prepared it and especially as I tried to remove the core. It was so much work I decided to just try the recipe with 2 quinces. I weighed the cut fruit and found I had just over 12 ounces. I put it into a saucepan and added 9 ounces of white granulated sugar. I covered the pot and turned the heat low.
As the sugar started melting and the juice started to come out of the quinces, I turned the heat up a bit. I stirred every so often and once it came to the boil I added the vinegar. I used a bit less than 1/4 cup of pickling vinegar since the recipe calls for strong vinegar. I added just a little less than 1/4 teaspoon of ground mace, cloves and cinnamon. Later I discovered it was supposed to be whole cinnamon but this seems to have worked. The fruit looked a bit like peaches at this point.
I let it boil without the lid for 6 minutes. Next I used a slotted spoon to remove the fruit and put it in a container. Then I left the liquid to boil and get thicker. I wasn’t sure how thick it might become and I was worried I would reduce the liquid so much that it wouldn’t cover the quinces so I removed it from the heat after a few minutes. I poured it over the quinces and was ready to taste.
Mrs. McAuslan is most likely Christie Carrick. She was born in the Galt area in 1840 to John and Christie and married Scottish born John McAuslan. His parents brought him to Canada when he was about ten years old. John became a cooper and was about nine years older than Christie when they married. They spent their lives in Galt and had about eight children. One of their daughters died when she was fourteen months old of some sort of inflammation. John died 1910 and Christie died of endocarditis in 1916.
Pickled quinces are a surprise — a good surprise. The cooked quince tastes very good and the pickling solution just enhances it. The fruit has the slightly grainy texture of a pear and the tart taste of an apple and yet the flavour is still distinctive. The spices, sugar and vinegar are well-balanced with the fruit. I’m not sure what I’ll do with my pickled quinces except eat and enjoy. If you can locate some quinces I recommend trying Mrs. McAusland’s recipe for pickled quinces.
Quinces, sugar, vinegar, one teaspoonful whole cinnamon, one teaspoonful cloves, one teaspoonful mace. Peel and core the quinces. If small cut into quarters, if large into eighths. Weigh the pared fruit and take sugar in the proportion of three-fourths pound to every pound of fruit. Arrange the quinces and sugar in alternate layers in a preserving kettle and bring them slowly to a boil. To every five pounds of fruit and sugar together allow a cupful of strong vinegar and a teaspoonful of cinnamon and cloves and mace. When the syrup boils add spices and vinegar, and boil six minutes. With a split spoon remove the fruit and spread no flat dishes, leaving the syrup to boil until it thickens. Pack air-tight glass jars with the fruit, fill to overflowing with the boiling syrup and screw the tops on tightly. Pears, peaches, plums, crab apples are all good pickled according to the above recipe.