Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Condoignac: Medieval French quince butter

Quinces cooked in wine and honey is one of those tough and time-worn badass recipes - versions of it have been around since at least 4th c. Rome.

The quince is a relative of the apple and pear and though it looks a lot like a chartreuse apple, it is incredibly sour when raw. The quince is so similar in looks to the apple that ancient texts translated as 'apple' may in fact be referring to the quince. It, like Aphrodite, is a native of the east, so the Greeks believed it to be sacred to the goddess and would feed it to newlyweds to ensure good night of hanky panky. In medieval medicine, pregnant women were encouraged to eat quince to produce more intelligent children.

The French paired quinces with wine and exotic spices to create a delicacy called condoignac. Legend has it that the people of Orleans, France gave this candy to Joan of Arc when she freed the city from siege by the English in 1429.

Its too bad poor Joan wouldn't be showered in tasty fruit delights for too much longer - she was burned at the stake for heresy and witchcraft on May 30th, 1431 at Rouen, France. The Catholic Church totally apologized for all that though when they canonized her a saint in 1920.

Joan is now the patron saint of France, captive, women in the army, and cross-dressers (that's actually just something I threw in, but she totally should be! She was one trouser-wearing, cross-dressing Medieval babe. Seriously Catholic Church, get with it- emphasizing the cross-dressing would be a great PR move).

The site of Joan's execution in Rouen is now a church that incorporates elements of a Renaissance church in the spot that was destroyed in WWII (the architecture reminds me of the movie Suspiria somehow - maybe all the Gothic-via-the-70's curves?)

This recipe for condoignac comes from the medieval French cookbook Menagier de Paris (via the fanastic Early French Cookery by D. Eleanor and Terence Scully). I struggled with this recipe - repeatedly - completely unable to get the quinces and honey to harden to any sort of managable texture. So, I gave up completely on the idea of solid quince candies and instead embraced the beautiful quince butter I was left with.

I spread my quince concoction on some homemade biscuits and forgot about the hard candy version. This stuff is good.

Condoignac Quince Butter
Makes 1 cup

3 quinces
3/4 cup red wine (plus potentially another 1/4 c.)
1/4 cup honey
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
pinch nutmeg
pinch ground grains of paradise

Peel and core the quince; cut them into quarters.

Cook quince in the wine over low heat until soft, anywhere from 30-45 minutes. If the wine evaporates too quickly, add another 1/4 c.

Pour cooked quinces into food processor and puree until very smooth.

Bring honey to boil over low heat; add quince puree and spices. Cooked, stirring frequently to prevent cooking, until the mixture is reduced by 1/2 and noticeably thicker and more gelatinous.

Pour mixture into small greased baking dish and allow to cool.

THIS is where I failed. My mixture never solidified in order to 'cut into bite sized pieces' as the recipe called for. Maybe you will have more luck. Or maybe you will enjoy this luscious and deeply flavored quince mixture as a spread rather than as a candy. Honestly, I think I'm happy my quinces stayed soft. These biscuits spread with the stuff were totally divine. Plus this stuff would can so incredibly well and make an excellent gift for newlyweds or an expecting momma, seeing as how quince ensures great sex and smart babies. Great combo, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment