Friday, November 21, 2008

Quince with Recipe for Pork and Quince Stew – Kydonato (Χοιρινό Kυδωνάτο)

Halfway through daily errands, I bought two quinces, a new-to-me fruit. When I got back in the car after the next stop, the air inside was perfumed with a powerful aroma, reminiscent of pineapple and very ripe apples combined.

I planned on cooking the quince that night. When I got home, I left them on the kitchen counter. Soon, their lovely fragrance permeated the kitchen. I couldn’t wait to cook with quince.

For several years, I’ve been meaning to make Pork and Quince Stew, an old-time recipe on the Northern Aegean island we call home. It wasn’t until I read, in quick succession, Mariana’s recipe for
Stuffed Quince and Ioanna’s recipe for Beef and Quince Stew that I was inspired to set out on a quest for quince (found in Carr’s specialty produce section).

When I cut the quince open and tasted a thin slice, I was disappointed. The flesh was firm and disagreeably woody, and its flavor was astringent and unpleasant. I was confused. How could fruit with such an amazing aroma taste so bad?

For advice, I turned to the ever-reliable Elizabeth Schneider, author of
Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide and Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference (both are indispensable reference books). Schneider explains: “Quince requires cooking to be edible … the hard, ivory interior, when slowly cooked, develops a rich flavor … that makes it a delight in sweet and savory dishes.”

When buying quince, Schneider advises to choose large fruits with a smooth and regular shape, which makes them easier to peel. Because the firm flesh is difficult to cut, it’s important to use a sharp knife. Schneider says that “quinces bruise easily, [but] last for months” if they are tightly wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator.

On the island, quinces were traditionally packed in sawdust and stored in north-facing rooms. This kept the quinces fresh until the family pig was slaughtered in late December or early January.

Having determined that cooked quince can be tasty, the next step was developing a stew recipe. As I perused my Greek cookbook collection, I found a multitude of recipes for Pork and Quince Stew (called Kydonato in Greek), all of them different. Some were seasoned only with bay leaves, others contained cinnamon or cloves or nutmeg or allspice or a combination of several spices. Some used dry red wine, others sweet red wine, and still others white wine. Some recipes were rich with onions, others warned not to add onions, lest they overshadow the quince flavor.

I ended up creating my own recipe for Pork and Quince Stew, taking guidance from a variety of recipes and seasoning it to please our palates. My husband has never been fond of fruit and meat, nor is he keen on cinnamon in savory food. Since I was intent on using the quinces, I left out the cinnamon and instead flavored the dish with allspice, nutmeg, bay leaves, and lemon peel.

Pork and Quince Stew was a great success. The flavors were savory and not overly sweet, and the quince was a lovely complement to the tender pork. We both enjoyed it thoroughly.

My husband added dashes of Jamaican hot sauce to his serving. I was persuaded to try the stew with a little hot sauce and was surprised by how good it tasted. I wouldn’t cook the stew with hot sauce, but I’d definitely serve it on the side for spicy food fans.

Pork and Quince Stew – Kydonato (Χοιρινό Kυδωνάτο)
Serves 4
When cutting the lemon peel strips , avoid as much of the white pith as possible. Serve with roasted potatoes and a crisp green salad.

2 1/4 pounds bone-in pork butt or shoulder, or country-style ribs (1 1/2 pounds boneless)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cups diced onion, 1/2” dice
1 cup white wine
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. whole allspice berries
3 bay leaves
2 4” strips of lemon peel
2 Tbsp. butter
2 quinces
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Wash and dry the pork, cut the meat off the bones, remove any large pieces of fat, and cut the meat into 1” cubes. Season the cubes, and any bones, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and sauté the pork and bones until they are well-browned. Stir in the onions and sauté until they soften and begin to turn golden. Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and cook until the wine is reduced by half. Stir in the tomato paste until it is thoroughly combined. Stir in the water, allspice, bay leaves, and lemon peel. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover, turn down the heat, and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until the pork is very tender. Taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper as needed.

While the pork is cooking, peel the quince, cut them into quarters, remove the core, and drop in
acidulated water (water with lemon juice) to keep the quince from turning brown. Cut each quince quarter in half lengthwise and then in half crosswise; dry the quince pieces thoroughly.

Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the quince pieces, and cook until they are lightly browned on all sides. Turn off the heat, sprinkle the sugar and nutmeg over the quince, and toss to combine.

When the pork is tender, stir in the quince, and cook covered for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and lemon peel. Serve immediately, warning your guests not to eat the allspice berries.
This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Siri from Siri's Corner.


Peter G said...

These two seem like a natural pairing Laurie. I like the combination of spices you used for this dish...and yes please, pass me the hot sauce!

FOODalogue: Meandering Meals and Travels said...

I never used quince but this seems to be a tasty way to use it. Interesting post.


i also saw ioanna's and marianna's recipes, so when i bought three quinces home, I thought i'd add the to the sunday roast, which I was sternly warned against doing by my husband...

i made them into a traditional spoon sweet (my next post)

MAG said...

Very good idea, I never used quince in cooking. We make quince jam and I also eat it as a fruit with some salt :) I like its sour taste :)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

You can wrap the allspice berries in a bit of cheesecloth, tied with string, the same way you make herb bundles for French stews. Then you fish out the packet before serving!

Maryann said...

Very nice, Laurie! Happy Thanksgiving :)

History of Greek Food said...

I am glad you found some quinces, Laurie.And I like the lemon peel you've added in kydonato.

Bijoux said...

This dish sounds delicious. I don't recall ever eating pork and quince together, but I know the fruit very well as my mother is a huge fan of quince and she makes "sweets of the spoon" using quince. Is it really a Northern Aegean dish? I had no idea. It's interesting how some foods smell great but taste awful and vice versa. I'm currently studying a course on exploring the senses through art and have been doing a lot of reading on the olfactory sense for my research paper. Apparently, our brain plays a huge role in deciphering fragrances and smells and not our nose. I guess that would explain why some people dislike the scent of Durian fruit but enjoy eating this stinky fruit.

Kalyn said...

I've never had quince either, but it sounds intriguing. I have wanted to try membrillo (sic?) for a long time.

jesse said...

I've never tried quince, but WOW this recipe sounds absolutely fantastic!

Laurie Constantino said...

On the hot sauce, Peter, you and my husband are peas in a pod.

Thanks Joan!

Maria, yes I understand, my husband was very suspicious. I was surprised he liked it.

MAG, just like you are fond of green almonds with salt! I think it was more the texture of the quince that put me off more than the flavor.

Lydia, you are so right, that's a great tip - but, of course, that would require one to be a little more organized than I am!

Happy Thanksgiving, Maryann!

Mariana, thank you so much for the inspiration!

Bijoux, yes, a version of kydonato is traditional on the island. Do you have the island's cookbook? There's a recipe for kydonato in it. Your class on exploring the senses sounds fascinating. Too bad I can't sit in on it.

Kalyn, yes quince is called membrillo in Spanish. In Portuguese, quince is marmelo, which is the origin of the word marmalade. Quince has a huge amount of pectin which, of course, is the substance that jells marmalade etc. I'm glad I tried it!

Jesse, yes, it's very tasty. Thanks for stopping by!

Bijoux said...

Laurie, I don't have the island's cookbook but I have yours ;)

I spoke to my mother about this dish and she agreed that it is native to the island. I learn something new everyday! LOL

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Laurie, I love your blog. Glad to read that you found a way to use up the quinces. In the recent month, I also bought quinces and we were surprised at the taste! We were very disappointed as they tasted very plain and not tasty. I'll have to cook them up next time.

Peter M said...

I'm happy to have just read your background piece on quince. I recently had a comment from an anonymous reader who insisted that quince can be eaten raw.

Well, duh...yeah but how unpleasant!

I too am now a fan of quince and I enjoy the fruit with savory and sweet.

Laurie Constantino said...

Bijoux, I'm so glad to have you mom's seal of approval!! :-) Did I know you had my book? If I did, I completely forgot! (so what else is new...)
Anyway, in 2000 a woman on the island wrote a great cookbook. I have it in Greek, but a couple years ago an English translation came out (I've never looked at it in English, so don't know how good the translation is...)

Med/Turkish Cook, thank you so much for stopping by. I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't like raw quince!!

Peter, I'm really looking forward to making something sweet with quince. As for anonymous commenters, I take them with a grain of salt.

Anna said...

this looks like a great recipe. very interesting.

CaliforniaKat said...

It's quince time in Greece, and I was pleased to see that you have a recipe. I love that I can always count on you.