Credit: iStock / bermau
Quince is an underutilized local fruit with great taste and lots of natural pectin for a mouth-filling flavour. Granville Island Public Market is a dependable place to get quince. You can also have excellent result with pears if you use slightly under-ripe fruit (use Bartlett or Bosc varieties).
A quince is a small, deciduous tree that bears fruit. The fruit is bright yellow when mature (green when immature) and bears a resemblance to a pear. In colder climates, the fruit is of a fine, handsome shape, of a rich golden colour when ripe and has a strong fragrance, by some judged to be rather heavy and overpowering. The rind is rough and woolly and the flesh harsh and unpalatable, with an astringent, acidulous taste. The flowers have five pink-white petals and are produced in spring.
Quince is often too hard and sour to eat, though it can be softened by frost. They can be peeled, stewed, roasted, baked or used to make jam, jelly or quince pudding. Quince seeds, however, are poisonous and should not be eaten.
Because of its strong perfume, quince is often used as a flavour enhancer for jam and apple pies. Quinces may have been cultivated before apples. It is a native of Persia and Anatolia and perhaps also of Greece and the Crimea.
1 recipe pie dough (enough to make one 12-inch round) (See JoAnna's pie crust recipe below.)
6 quince (or pears), peeled and cored
1 cup (250 mL) sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) water
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
Make pie dough as per your favourite recipe (or buy frozen puff pastry). Chill for at least 1 hour.
Core quince and cut into thin wedges (toss with a little lemon juice to keep pieces from browning as they wait).
In a large skillet, add the sugar and water. Cook over high heat until the sugar dissolves and begins to turn golden brown. Add the butter and shake pan to dissolve. Add the quince and carefully stir to coat the pieces with the caramel. The quince will begin to give off liquid. This will dissolve any chunks of caramel and start to cook the fruit. Cook until the syrup begins to thicken, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. If the quince are very dry and the mixture begins to stick, add a little water to help the process.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out on a well-floured cutting board into a circle big enough to cover the entire top of the skillet. Carefully fold pastry over the skillet and gently place on top of the quince mixture. Trim the edges (or fold) around the top. Sprinkle a little sugar on the pastry and place in a hot 400° F oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is browned and cooked through. Remove form the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
Run a knife or spatula gently around the edge of the pastry. Place a large plate or platter on top of the skillet. Quickly invert the skillet and allow the pasty and filling to drop to the plate. Cut into wedges and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Perhaps the greatest pie crust known to humankind is that of my grandmother, JoAnna Henegar. Of course I’m biased, however this does not change the fact that anyone who has ever tried one of her salty flake-crusted pies has proclaimed that hers are indeed the most delicious they’ve ever had.
So without further adieu, here is the recipe for two crusts:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.
2/3 cup corn oil
1/3 cup whole milk (vegans can use almond or rice milk)
Mix the oil and milk in a measuring cup with a fork. Act quickly while the milk is cold. The mixture should become thick and milky. Add mixture immediately to the flour and salt; fold it into the dry ingredients thoroughly, but with as few strokes as possible, until the dough is damp through and balls forms.
Use half of the dough for each crust. Roll between sheets of wax paper, using as few strokes as possible.
Peel off one sheet and place the crust in the pie pan, carefully remove the second sheet of wax paper. Fold up the edges to make the crust, handling as little as possible. You can put a crust in the fridge to keep cool until you are ready to add filling and stick in the oven.
In general, the hardest part is getting the liquid-dry ratio right so that the dough will ball up but isn’t sticky. The key is to pay attention and not be afraid to start again from scratch. Perfect pie doesn’t come easy, after all.
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