Quince are ever-popular in Spain, where membrillo, a paste made from the flesh of the fruit and copious amounts of sugar, is a traditional partner for Manchego cheese. But in the United States, most people I’ve mentioned the tart, green, apple-and-pear-relative to have never heard of them. In England, quince jellies are quite traditional. My Granny apparently used to make quince jelly from the fruit of one of the trees in their back garden. My mother remembers the smell of it cooking, and the endless bundles of cores and peels dripping through sieves into bowls, when the quince were in season.
If you read the fabulous Edward Lear poem The Owl and the Pussycat as a kid, you’ll remember the unlikely pair dining on “mince and slices of quince which they ate with a runcible spoon,” before they dance on the beach in the moonlight. Even if you’re not part of a romantic cross-species couple, quince paste is a great fit for this fruit! This is partially because quince is so darned tart and can’t really be eaten raw. I used a Food52 recipe for both membrillo and the jelly made from the cores and peels of the quince. I managed to find fresh quince quite by accident at the farmers’ market in Crystal City. I plan to munch on the membrillo with pork chops and some salad, and the jelly on toast or with oatmeal.
Oh, and for inquiring minds, when Lear used the word “runcible,” it was a nonsense word by itself and didn’t necessarily mean anything, but Merriam Webster claims “a runcible spoon” means “a sharp-edged fork with three broad curved prongs.” Lear might not have meant anything in particular by the word, since illustrations of this implement in Lear poems look more like a ladle than anything else. Runcible spoons are optional for eating this recipe!