Every since I started actively reading food blogs a few months ago, I have heard several reverential references to a fruit called quinces. Prior to this, I had never heard of this mystical food, and I certainly didn’t know where to buy any. During my regular trips to stores and markets, I had kept my eyes peeled for any of these little fruits, but had eventually resigned myself to the fact that I had missed the quince season.
Until this past weekend when I spotted a lone box of them at a stand at my local farmers market. I was thrilled and quickly asked the person worker there how to pick out the best fruit. (FYI, telling someone to pick a yellow one is not helpful when the entire box is full of a yellow fruit that you have not seen before.) I selected a bag of the precious fruit and was happily on my way.
Except for one thing – I had no idea what I was going to do with them. I had always assumed that I wouldn’t be able to find them, so I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do with them. Until I came across Chez Pim's web site.
I love caramel desserts. While some people are chocoholics to the core, I will never turn down anything that has caramel in it.
The best part is that they turned out to be just as wonderful as Chez Pim said they were. In fact, they are all wrapped up and sitting in my fridge right now, calling out to me, making it sooo hard to give them away to other people…
Quince Caramel Candies
(makes about 50 caramels)
2 lbs of quince
1 ½ cups water
3 cups sugar
½ cup salted butter, warmed to room temperature.
In a pot set over medium high heat, add the sugar and water and let cook until the sugar crystals are completely melted. Remove from heat. This can be done first to allow the quinces to be dropped into the pot, as soon as they are peeled and sliced.
Peel, core, and cut the quinces into quarters. Drop the fruits into the pot of syrup as you go along.
When you are done with the fruits, set the pot back on the stove. Bring the simple syrup to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and let cook until the quince slices are soft and cooked through. The slices will be a soft pink color.
Remove the pot from heat and let cool on the countertop. When you are ready to make your caramels, use a slotted spoon to fish out the poached quinces from the syrup. Strain the syrup into a deep pot.
Set the pot with the syrup back on the stove, on high heat. Stick your candy thermometer into the pot. Cook the caramel over high heat until it reaches 240-250F (115-120C). Turn the heat off, then stir in the butter, a small knob at a time, until all the butter is incorporated into the caramel. Turn the heat back on, continue to cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the thermometer register 260F or 125C. Remove from heat immediately and set the pot aside to cool for a few minutes.
When the content of the pot stops bubbling and seems a bit safer to approach, pour it onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (not waxed paper, just regular parchment.) Let stand until cool enough to handle. If you want to cut the caramels into squares and wrap them that way, you can wait until the caramel is completely cooled. If you want to roll and wrap them, that needs to be done before the caramel is completely cool.
(source Chez Pim)