20 October 2013

Des coings dans le coin

We had a friend over for the afternoon yesterday. We were able to sit out on the terrace from two until six p.m., since the weather was so warm. It's 15ºC this morning — almost 60ºF.

Those grapes I mentioned and showed yesterday have now been harvested. I went to check on their status when I took Callie out for our walk late yesterday afternoon. I'm not sure if they are Gamay, Cabernet, or Côt grapes. I'll have to ask the grower when I see him again.

One crop that hasn't been harvested, and probably won't be unless I go pick some, is a load of quinces — coings — on a little tree right on the edge of the north parcel of the vineyard. I keep looking at them, and thinking about them, but I'm just not up to making more jelly after all the apple jelly I made last month and a batch of wine grape jelly I made a week or so ago.

The coing (rhymes with loin, foin, moins, point) is the fruit of the cognassier [ko-nyah-'ssiay]. It looks more or less like a huge yellow pear, as you can see. These quinces that I photographed for this post are probably the most beautiful ones I've ever seen. The fruit is covered with a fine down or fuzz.

In warm Mediterranean climates, quinces will ripen to the point where they can be eaten raw, apparently, but here in northern France they are as hard as a rock when we pick them. They are hard to cut up, but they make wonderful gelée [zhuh-'lay]. They are also good cooked — sliced and sautéed slightly in butter and served with roasted pork or chicken, for example. I don't know if they are grown in the U.S. at all. Probably somewhere.


  1. Ken, have you ever tried poached quinces....
    peel, cut into quarters and poach in wine with spices and sugar.
    They are then wonderful to eat... with cream or créme fraiche...
    and the liquour keeps wonderfully [the quince probably do as well... they've never had a chance] and you can use that juice over ice cream or rice pudding or stale cake....
    they'd probably make a good winter cobbler, too, once poached.

    Poached quinces are one of my favourite puds...
    I'd be at those like a rocket... just can't seem to find anyone with quinces around here...
    I'v seen some over the wall by the Post Office in GP... and watch them fall and rot every year... but they are too far away to get!

    And of course, they keep for ages on a north-facing windowsill and make the house smell great at the same time.

  2. In Provence, I often see "pâtes de coings" a kind of jelly solid enough to be cut into little bite size squares.

  3. Thanks for the poaching idea, Tim. Sounds good. I suppose that after a short poach the partially tenderized quince could then be made into a tart, pie, or crumble.

    When I've tried to keep quinces, they've rapidly developed big brown patches of rot and quickly become unusuable. Any secret to storing them? In the dark? In indirect light, as you say?

    DeeDee, I've made pâte de coings before. It was good.

  4. Ken...
    Pauline blogged about the poached quinces here [ http://livingtoeat-pollygarter.blogspot.fr/2010/12/to-quince-or-not-to-quince.html ]...
    and the secret I think, for long storage, is to pick the ones that are just turning and let them ripen up on the windowsill.

    Dry and airy...
    indirect light...
    and use any that show any sign of brown immediately.

    Even easier with Chaenomeles [Japanese Quince]...
    Pick green, leave on windowsill until needed... or they are too dry to use or give off scent.

  5. In the days when Covent Garden in London was still a fruit and veg market, my father worked nearby and would often come home with things that were going cheap at the end of trading. Once it was some quinces and my mother found a recipe for cotignac/pâté de coings. It looked beautiful, like deep red stained glass, but there was still something mouth-drying about the flavour. One piece was enough for quite a while.

    (And a quick Google turns up a number of US cookery writers talking about it as though quinces are on the market there).

  6. You bet they grow in the U.S., or at least in California. I know of several trees in our neighborhood.

  7. In Hungary they make birsalma sajt,(birsh alma shait) or quince cheese. It is delicious and my sisters in law made some for my husband and me, as part of a picnic we took on our honeymoon. And one sil made it every Christmas to give everyone in the family. I never made it myself. I know they cooked down the pulp, passed it through a food mill, weighed it, and added its own weight in sugar and cooked it some more and then filled small molds and let it solidify. A very interesting delicacy. One cut small pieces with a knife and ate it on its own or with meat.

  8. Did you know that "coin" is corner and quince were planted on the corner of properties to keep boundaries. The spelling is a variation, not a coincidence. That's probably why your tree is on the edge of your property.

  9. You bet they grow in the US. We live in Santa Fe,NM, NA (yes, part of the USA). We have trees over 100 yrs. old growing in our neighborhood. Some years we are able to collect 10 to 15 bushels. We make membrillo, sauce, bake them, stew them and just smell them. They like some frost before they are ready, the more the better until they really smell fragrant. Don't pick to soon!
    We are landscape gardener s and our signature is the quince that goes into every garden, whether they want one or not.
    Vive le "golden apple of the sun".
    Sarah and Richard


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