Long, slow baking caramelizes this hard, fuzzy-skinned, astringent pome fruit to russet tenderness in this unusual autumn dessert I learned from my Aunt Dahlia. As with the popular Spanish tapa of quince paste and sheep’s milk cheese, wedges of salty cheese mellow the fruit’s assertive tartness. The dish is beautiful made with small, young, golden-skinned Pineapple quince from Cirone Farms, Nicholas Orchard, and Circle C. Without the cheese, the quinces may be used as a savory accompaniment to ham or roasted game birds. An oyster knife is the ideal tool for scooping out the core from the quince’s hard surface, though a sharp paring knife or grapefruit spoon will also work.
- Yield: 8 to 10 servings
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/3 cup cognac
- 2 pounds quinces, preferably 4 or 5 small
- 8 to 10 whole cloves
- 8 to 10 teaspoons honey
- 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 pound aged sheep’s milk cheese such as Rinconada Dairy pozo tomme or Manchego, cut into wedges
- Plump the raisins in the cognac for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Drain them, reserving the liquid, then chop. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Scrub the quinces to remove the fuzz, but do not peel. If using small quinces, cut in half crosswise, and carefully cut out the core from each half (the cut surfaces will brown a bit; don’t worry). For large quinces, cut each fruit into several wedges and scoop out the core from each wedge. Trim rounded ends of quince halves so they stand level, and place cut side up in a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Fill the cavity in each half or wedge with 1 clove, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 generous teaspoon chopped raisins, and a few walnut pieces. Pour 1 to 2 teaspoons of the reserved cognac into each quince, and pour the remaining cognac into the baking dish. Add the water to the dish and seal tightly with aluminum foil.
- Bake the quinces until tender, 30 to 35 minutes. They will still be pale yellow at this point. Baste with the pan juices and add a little water if the pan seems dry. Reseal and continue baking, basting occasionally and adding water as necessary, until the quinces have turned a deep rosy gold and are very tender and the syrup is thick, about 1 1/2 hours more. Serve warm with a drizzle of the pan syrup and a wedge of cheese. This dish may be made up to 6 hours ahead, held at room temperature, and then reheated, covered, in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes.