Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Evolution of a Recipe: Quince and Cherries Simmered in Raspberry Wine

Recipes are for sharing. So I wasn't really surprised when I got some quinces from my friends Molly and Bill, I also sampled a cooked quince recipe that Molly made. The quince half shimmered in an amber liquid and a tiny taste delivered the tart-sweet zing of quince followed by a bold ginger. Molly handed me the recipe, but since she had an appointment, I only had time to scribble the ingredients onto a scrap of paper. Here they are:

2 tablespoons butter
2 quinces
1 1/2 cups Sauternes
1/4 cup sugar
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece ginger
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt

I’d neglected to write any instructions but how hard could it be? You could either simmer or bake the quince. I guessed she’d simmered the quince in the sweet wine and spices. I didn’t have any Sauternes, so I chose Rockridge Orchards raspberry wine from my pantry. I wavered for a moment between raspberry and tayberry, but the lighter tones of raspberry are like rays of sunshine when paired with the astringent tones of quince.

As for the herbs and spices, I couldn’t imagine bay leaf in this recipe, and I’ve learned if an ingredient doesn’t make sense, leave it out (unless you're baking). Molly hadn’t used it in her version either, although she had thought the recipe might be improved is she had added it. I wasn't convinced. In the end, with any recipe, you’re going to eat it, so go with what you know. So the bay leaf was cast off the island too. And with that, the cardamom and cinnamon were also deleted from the line-up. Nothing should compete with the flavor of raspberry wine. I left the vanilla in, but used a vanilla pod instead, and I reluctantly took the ginger out, only because I’d have to go shopping for it. As for salt-- was it even necessary? Or do we just add it to everything from habit?

With the list of ingredients whittled from 10 to 6, this is how I tweaked Molly's recipe:

Quince and Cherries Simmered in Raspberry Wine

· 2 tablespoons butter
· 2 quince, sliced
· 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
· 1 1/2 cup Rockridge Orchards raspberry wine
· 1/4 cup dried sour cherries (from Grouse Mountain Farm)
· 1 vanilla pod, sliced down the center

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer for an hour or until quince is very soft. Remove vanilla pod. Serve over vanilla ice cream, coconut sorbet or pound cake.

“It’s your recipe now,” Molly said when I told her about my tweaking. I never did discover where the original recipe came from, but I could seriously become addicted to this one. It’s even good first thing in the morning over steaming oatmeal.

Essential ingredients: quince, raspberry wine and coconut sorbet.

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