Rachel Roddy’s recipe for Sicilian quince paste | Christmas food gifts

IIt was my partner Vincenzo’s great aunt who made it Quince jelly. The youngest of five siblings, all of whom had their own families, it was her prerogative and responsibility. Every fall, in her kitchen in Gela on the south coast of Sicily, she cooked kilos by kilos. quince (quince) down to a puree and passed through a hand food mill, before returning it to a boil with lemon juice and sugar. Once the mixture had reached the point of setting (a thick, molten state burped and spit on passing children), it was poured into clay or tin molds and left to set to a solid jelly. Each molding was decorated on the inside, so that, when displayed, the figures had relief decoration, recognizable as flowers, grapes, swirls, or an angel.

some were dusted with sugar, some not; Either way, they were left to dry for a few more days. How the cotognata is dried is a personal matter, and it’s a chef’s perpetual competition with herself: color, consistency, how firm, how dry… Some people swear by a sunny table outside, while a cold oven is also an option; Vincenzo’s great aunt used every spare surface in the house for her.

Quince is an ancient fruit. Part of the rose family, it is the only member of the genus Cydonia It is native to Iran, Turkey, and possibly Greece and Crimea. Its tree is small and bushy, it is not disturbed as to where it grows (it loves the valley), and it has many thorny branches. In spring, the pale pink and white flowers with frilled edges are the beginning of fall fruit. In Sicily, there are two varieties: the oblong, somewhat pear-shaped, and the common, apple-like, both green at first, before ripening into a warm yellow fruit with a hazy coating. The scent is also warm – somewhere between ripe apple and pear, with spiced musks. in 980 m A poem by Shafir ibn Uthman al-Masafi suggests that quince perfume is the fragrance of a beloved woman, while it has the color of a passionate and vulnerable lover.

Sugarcane arrived in Sicily with the Arabs in the nineteenth century. In her book on Sicilian food, Mary Taylor Simetti explains that with cane arrived a knack and a love of comfort—a sugar-coated spice for the room. Together with almond paste and candied fruits (quince, pumpkin, citrus), comfort quince established Sicily as a confectionery product, which was sweetening courts throughout Europe. Production diminished after the extinction of the Arab and Norman dynasties, but traditions remained, both in the courts and among the common people. After all, quince grew wild all over the island, and honey or grapes must have provided an alternative to sugar.

The firm, astringent flesh of the quince is well suited for preservation—a fine feat, given that it is hardly edible—and, along with the skin, contains enough pectin to ensure a consistent set. As mentioned earlier, the exact range depends on the manufacturer. I like my company but with squiggles, somewhere between thick jam and wine gum.

Like his Spanish first cousin quince, if cotognata is wrapped when stored, it stays softer for longer. When exposed to air, it hardens. Vincenzo knows this better than I do, as he remembers the bits of his great aunt’s conservation efforts given to his grandmother. taken from the cupboard in the drawing-room, the ovals in November were still soft and pliable, while by April they were more solid, like fruit pastries; By August, they are starting to turn opaque. The quantity was like certain batches of cotognata They might last long enough to meet the next batch, or the next, when they were more like crystals. This is the cotognata that Vincenzo remembers. He shoved an oval in his pocket on the way to school, hard but sticky, so he would collect whatever was in it—fluff and fluff, a Sicilian version of my pear drop, or the half-sipped bottle of cola that’s a delight when found.

While cotognata is by no means just a Christmas thing, the taste, aroma, deep color, and the fact that quince is in season makes it feel especially appropriate this time of year. It’s delicious with cheese and cold cuts, or with seed cake. Or give as an edible gift (or store in a cupboard).

Cotognata, or paste of fifteen Sicilians

A very thick jam crossed with jelly cubes, cotognata is similar to membrillo, but a little cloudy. Like membrillo, it is held together into a firm dough that can be cut into cubes or slices. Be careful when cooking, as the pulp gets very hot and can spit.

to equip 5 minutes
cook 1 hour 20 minutes +
Designation 8 hours +
Make 1 x Baking tray 40 cm x 30 cm or 8 plates
Memorizes Months

1½ kg quince
2 lemons
800 gr-1.2 kg Sugar
– The quantity will depend on the weight of the quince after sieving

Wipe the quince with a damp cloth to remove any fluff, but don’t peel it. Cut the pulp into quarters, get rid of the pulp, and then cut the flesh into large pieces. Put them in a heavy skillet with lemon juice and 200 ml water, then cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 40 minutes, until the fruit is very tender.

Pass the quince mixture through a food mill until you get a smooth pulp. Weigh the pulp and return it to the skillet 800 gr sugar per kilo pulp. Heat the mixture gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and cook, stirring regularly, for 25-40 minutes, until the paste becomes thick: when you run a wooden spoon over the base of the pan, it should leave a gap.

It is spooned onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, or into eight molds or plates, and then left uncovered in a cool, dry place for at least eight hours until completely set (I give mine 12). Wrap it in greaseproof paper and store it in a cool, dry place where it will keep for months.

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