I went into Unicorn in Chorlton, Manchester to stock up on my favourite seasonal fruit and vegetables – this time of year they are quince, Jerusalem artichokes and Seville oranges. Once I’d bought them, it was a quick trawl through the book to see what I could do with them. The one recipe that didn’t require me to buy anything extra, other than was in my store cupboard, was quince comfits; all they need is water and sugar.
FYI: A comfit is a sugary sweet, rather like a pastille, that go way back In fact, quince comfits were made as part as Henry IV’s coronation banquet in 1399. This is a fact that I’m still in awe of. Get some made if you find some quinces and have a rare medieval treat!
Scrub the fluffy stuff that coats the quince’s skins, wash them thoroughly, and chop roughly. Put them in a pan with around an inch of water and simmer them, covered, until they are very soft. This takes a while as they are so hard, so keep a check on them and add extra water if need be to prevent them boiling dry. Once they are very soft, pass them through a sieve and weigh the pulp. Return it to the pan and add an equal weight of sugar. Bring it to the boil and allow to simmer, pop and bubble for up to half an hour. Make sure you stir it often to prevent it catching. It is ready when the mixture comes away from the sides as you stir. Pour the mixture into Swiss roll tins or sandwich tins that have been lined with greaseproof paper. Now you have to be patient – the mixture has to be dried slowly in a very low oven (less than 50ºC) or in the airing cupboard for a few days. Cut it into squares and shake the sweets in a tub of caster sugar to coat them. Hey Presto: Medieval sweets!
Griggers reckons they’re really good melted on grilled pork chops.
#109 Quince Comfits – 7/10. I love quince. I think they’re my second favourite fruit after the raspberry. Their wonderfully perfumed toffee flavour really does come across in these little sweets. I don’t really go for sweets like this usually, but these are good and have the added interest of being eaten by a medieval king!