Quince and Vanilla Sorbet

Quinces are fruits of the same family as apples and pears. They used to be eaten extensively in ancient times, being “very popular with the Greeks, who ate it hollowed out, filled with honey and cooked in a pastry case”, according to Larousse Gastronomique. The Romans used to use it in perfumery. But nowadays, it’s mostly made into marmalades, jellies to go with cheese, or liqueurs. Regulated to that list of those “classic” English fruits that nobody eats anymore- damsons, sloes, rosehip- we don’t see quince much in culinary use. Or at the supermarkets- I had to get my quinces from the greengrocer’s in The Covered Market in Oxford.

But it amazes me why I haven’t discovered quinces prior to recently. They’re awesome. You wouldn’t want to eat them as a fruit- quinces are very dry and woody- and they hardly look especially appetising either. But roasted: wow. After a few hours in the oven, the house was filled with a beautiful smell that would be hard to find in a soap shop, a bit like a cross between a baked apple and a baked pear. But even after roasting in sugar syrup for a few hours, they were still dry and woody, but the flavours had developed beautifully. So what do you do if you have a food that tastes great, but is textually undesirable? Purée it, then use a culinary ‘vehicle’ to carry it. For a fruit, that means a jelly, an ice cream, or, as I’ve done here, a sorbet.

Sorbets have very similar science to ice creams- it’s all about the water crystal formation. Small water crystals will give you a smooth texture, larger ones will give you a grainy texture, like a granita. They key is making sure you have lots of small sugar molecules, hence the liquid glucose. Similarly, making the sorbet in an ice cream maker will allow for smaller crystals to form, because of the churning action. Fortunately we need lots of sugar for roasting the quince, to help develop the flavours. But you can make sorbet out of practically anything, it’s a great method of bringing out the taste of a food in a unique way.

Quince and Vanilla Sorbet

Sometimes recipes ask for vanilla pods when extract will do, but here you really want the real deal. The flavour works beautifully with the quince. You’ll need to purée the quince, so a hand blender or food processor is required.

4 Quinces, as ripe as possible, peeled and cut into chunks
300g caster sugar
2 vanilla pods
50g liquid glucose

1. Roast the quince. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. In a saucepan, add ~100ml water to the caster sugar. Split open the vanilla pods and scrape into the sugar solution. Stir until all of the sugar solution has dissolved, and bring to the boil, and keep it there for a few minutes. Put the quinces in a large roasting tin, and pour the sugar solution on top. Cover with foil, then roast in the oven for several hours, until the quince is soft. Allow to cool.
2. Make the sorbet mixture. Purée the quince along with the juices. Add the liquid glucose, and as much water as is required to make the mixture up to 1.1 litres. Chill overnight.
3. Make the sorbet. Make the sorbet in an ice cream maker according the manufacturer’s instructions. Take out of the freezer a few minutes before you want to serve.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Fourteen-Course Dinner Parties « oxfood
  2. Trackback: An Oxford Lunch « oxfood

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