An annual ritual
Its getting to that time of year again – quince time.
What started by mistake – a gift to replace a sadly missed ornamental quince (turned out to be the full blown variety) – has now become a much loved feature of the garden and a prolific producer of fruit.
So much so, that we can’t see it go to waste.
A joined-up approach
We at Jackson O’Connor Architecture, try to lighten our footprint on the planet as much as we can: not easy when architecture and the building industry are one of the biggest contributors to global warming. We do our bit of course, with the buildings we design, but also everyday – from composting all our garden and food waste, baking the eggshells to keep off the slugs, growing our own, recycling and repurposing. Currently it’s the repurposing of quince.
When faced with what we thought was a bountiful crop from the first year of fruit, we took on the challenge of trying to use up the dozens of fruit.
For those reading this who don’t know – quince fruit looks like a large yellow pear, but with the fuzz of a peach. When ripe, it has a fragrant perfume-like aroma: so a little goes a long way in any recipe. The weather in the UK never gets hot enough to soften the quince fruit enough to be eaten straight from the tree : the fruit remains hard and has to be softened through cooking or preserving in alcohol.
We’ve tried out a few recipes (most are seemingly straight from the kitchens of Henry VIII). Our quince jelly turned to concrete – so strong we think there might be scope to use it as a sustainable building material! And we haven’t yet found a recipe for membrillo that we could face making.
So far we’ve found chutney and brandy to be the most successful.
The hottest and longest summer for quite some time, has meant the quince harvest this year is the biggest yet. We’ve even had to undertake an emergency culling of a large quantity of the part ripened fruit , to ensure the overladen branches of the tree didn’t snap.
When ready for picking, the garden is filled with their distinctive perfume, we found we had well-over a hundred fruit to use up – we only generally need about two quince per batch of chutney or brandy. What has previously been made as a Christmas gift for family and friends (who ask for more each year), has now become a production line of gifts for clients and suppliers as well.
Even then, we still had quite a few fruit spare. A few large parcels were posted to an old friend in Yorkshire – blog.the aperitifguy.co.uk – for him to create something fabulous for his next gathering, Yet more went to a local chef to be made into quince cake – a recipe we will definitely be adding to our repertoire.
Quince time is all the time
This tree has become the back-drop to our year. From the first leaves, the blossom in the spring, followed by the tiny first fruit growing into the huge final crop. Then its picking time – generally the first week on October – and then making and giving well into the new year.
We now make sure we set aside enough time in October to harvest our crop and make our gifts. This has become a time of year when its relief to switch off from architecture for a while and get in touch with some thing a little more practical, and dare we say just as rewarding.
The enjoyment from seeing something we have grow, being transformed into a little touch of ruby happiness, is immeasurable and its so lovely when there are requests for the repeat orders.
The scale of the crop this year took us a little by surprise. Next year I think we will be planning our packing a little more carefully – the hunt for some more architectural vessels has already begun. We will, of course, be re-using those that have been returned.