The quince (Turkish: Ayva) is a member of the Rosa family and a close relative of apples and pears. The wild fruit is thought to have originated in the regions of Anatolia, Greece and the Crimea. The most common varieties of quince in Turkey are the bardak, demir, ekmek, limon and esme. The bardak quince is most widely cultivated in the province of Kocaeli, and characterized by a downy peel, crisp juicy flesh and tangy flavor. Quinces are harvested in late September, tied in bunches, and stored in cellars for the winter. The demir (‘iron’) quince that ripens in October is aptly named on account of its hard dense texture. The ekmek or ‘bread’ quince that is gathered in September is a good keeper and preferred by many people because it does not have the astringent flavor of many quinces. The ‘lemon’ quince is another popular variety so called because of its bright yellow skin, and the esme is an eating variety widely cultivated in the Marmara region which keeps well until the end of March.
Quinces are widely used in Turkish cuisine. In many places they are simply roasted whole over a charcoal fire and then split open and eaten with a spoon. Quince pudding with clotted cream is a favorite winter dessert, and many other types of sweet puddings and preserves are made of this fruit. Quinces are also an ingredient of various savory dishes, such as rice or bulgur pilaf, kebabs, meat stews, and salads, and they can be stuffed and cooked in various ways as a vegetable. The recipes given here illustrate the versatility of this venerable fruit.
QUINCE PUDDING WITH CLOTTED CREAM
(serves 8) Ingredients:
4 large quinces, 4 cups sour cherry juice, 1 cup sugar, 8 cloves, 1 tbsp logusa sekeri (a spiced crystallized tablet used for making sherbet and sold by Turkish confectioners), 1 tbsp starch, 1 tsp cinnamon, 4 tbsp clotted cream or whipped cream, ground pistachio nuts.
Peel the quinces and cut in two lengthways. Remove the core carefully without breaking the flesh and arrange in a large shallow pan. Sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon and cloves over. Melt the logusa sekeri in hot water, mix with the sour cherry juice and pour over the quinces. Cover and cook over a low heat, turning occasionally. When tender set aside to cool. Blend some of the juice with the starch, mix with the rest of the juice in another saucepan, and stir over a gentle heat until the mixture thickens. When cool spoon some of this mixture into the centre of each half quince, and place a spoonful of clotted cream or whipped cream over. Sprinkle with ground pistachio nuts and serve.
Reference: Renan Yildirim/SKYLIFE
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):