The Quince And The Cordial

Aesop really should have writ­ten a fable about the quince, in which this con­crete wreck­ing ball of a fruit is enticed into love­li­ness by the inter­ven­tion of a little lov­ing care.

I’ve always admired the truc­u­lence of the quince. Its exquis­ite per­fume and plumply yel­low fruit give the impres­sion of easy, yield­ing grace. But circle your fin­gers around a quince and you will find it as hard and unwel­com­ing as a winter’s morn­ing. Never was there such a mis­match between looks and char­ac­ter. Once you know how to cajole it, though, a quince becomes the thing you always thought it was going to be from the start — sweet, del­ic­ate and fragrant.

So to make up for the fable that Aesop for­got to write, here is the tale of The Quince And The Cordial.

QUINCE CORDIAL

  • 12 quinces, left whole
  • 850ml water
  • 350g caster sugar

I have the bril­liant chef Skye Gyn­gell to thank for this idea. Pre­heat the oven to 150 degrees C. Wash the quinces and rub them dry with a cloth, to remove the soft fuzz that adorns them. Don’t bother to peel or core them, but simply line them up in a bak­ing tray. Sprinkle over the sugar and pour in the water. Cover with alu­minium foil and bake in the oven for between 3 to 4 hours.

My quinces were very large and needed the full 4 hours to be rendered soft and for the juice to be richly pink. Allow the quinces to cool in the liquid. Remove the fruit and tip the juice into a jug. My quinces made 1 litre of cor­dial. It will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge, but I prefer to decant mine into small plastic bottles and freeze it. That way I can pluck a bottle tri­umphantly out of the freezer whenever needed, for an impromptu, showy cock­tail. The rule is 50/50 of cor­dial to pro­secco, spark­ling apple juice or fizzy water with ice.

The really clever part of this fable is that hav­ing extrac­ted your cor­dial you are still left with the cooked fruit them­selves. Slice the quinces and serve them with Greek yoghurt, maple syrup and per­haps some toasted hazel­nuts. Or tuck pieces of cooked quince amongst the apples when mak­ing an apple crumble.

The moral of this fable is, of course, that you should never judge a quince by its cover.

Oh so cordial cordial…

A few weeks ago I paid trib­ute to poor old Blood Orange Pos­set, the deli­ciously del­ic­ate pud­ding that got lumbered with the worst name in the world. As if we needed remind­ing that life isn’t fair, along swooshes the eleg­ant, beau­ti­ful, perfectly-named Apple Mint Cor­dial. If Blood Orange Pos­set and Apple Mint Cor­dial were guests at a wed­ding, BOP would be in the back row, behind a pil­lar and forced to wear a hat picked by Prin­cess Beatrice, while AMC would be in the front pew dressed entirely in Alex­an­der McQueen.

Not that it’s cordial’s fault. And I do love food that’s both a noun and an adject­ive. To drink a cor­dial that is cor­dial is very sat­is­fy­ing, although that might just be the cranky way my mind works. (While I’m on the sub­ject of gram­mar, food that’s both a noun and a verb is weirdly full of fat — think of lard, milk, but­ter and oil).

This par­tic­u­lar cor­dial will quench your thirst at a glance.

Apple Mint Cordial

Makes about 1 litre

1kg apples — Cox’s are best, although I used Royal Gala here

320 grams caster sugar

Finely pared peel of one unwaxed lemon

1 litre water

2 large hand­fuls of fresh mint leaves plus extra for serving

Chop the apples roughly, but don’t bother to peel or core them. Place them in a large pan with the sugar, water and lemon. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a sim­mer. Add the mint leaves.

Sim­mer gently for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the apple is soft and mushy. Turn off the heat and pour the entire lot into a jelly-making bag and allow it to drip slowly through into a bowl for a couple of hours. You can squish it through with the back of a ladle if you like, but I prefer to leave it to its own devices so that it emerges on the other side as a clear rather than cloudy pink liquid. Pour into ster­il­ised bottles. It will keep in the fridge for about a week. Altern­at­ively, you can freeze it into ice cubes and use them at your leis­ure. Add about 1/3 cor­dial to 2/3 still or spark­ling water and serve with plenty of ice and a hand­ful of fresh mint leaves.

Drink your Apple Mint Cor­dial while mak­ing a con­sol­ing, slightly smug toast to poor old Blood Orange Posset.