Quince – Birthday or Fruit?

Teenage Jewish American girls of Hispanic origin have three significant birthdays celebrated in lavish style befitting a wedding. As most  Jewish girls, when they turn 12, they celebrate the traditional Jewish coming of age, Bas (Bat) Mitzvah (boys have to wait an extra year; their big day, Bar Mitzvah, is at 13). As most American girls, they also want to have a Sweet Sixteen – why give up a chance to party, after all? However, Latin / Hispanic coming of age is called Quinceanera – literally a girl of 15.

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Quince is a grand ball, and la quinceanera is its queen. Every queen should have a court, and the quinceanera chooses her court of honor among her friends: 15 girls and 14 boys, one couple for every year of her life. The gowns are stunning; sometimes, when I drive through Hispanic areas of the city, I almost stop traffic because I slow down in front of every Quince salon to marvel at the breathtaking gowns on display. There are all kinds of quaint ceremonies symbolizing transition to adulthood: the girl’s father changes her flat shoes for high hills, her mother puts a tiara on her head and lipstick on her lips, and her younger sister or cousin gets her favorite doll. Then there is a waltz, frequently choreographed by professionals (how many teenagers do you know who dance waltz in real life?):

Some sources claim that this tradition dates all the way to the Aztecs, around 500 BCE. Others insist that it was the Spanish conquistadores who brought it to the New World.  Regardless of its origins, Quince Anos (15 years) celebration, or Quince for short, is one of the most spectacular features of life here in South Florida.

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So when, during my weekly foray into my favorite farmer store, I discovered quince – the fruit, not the celebration! – I immediately thought of making a traditional Odessa summer dessert, as fresh and beautiful as the quinceanera girls. Quince is a yellow fruit, related to apple and pears, grown around the Mediterranean region and widely known in the ancient world. In fact, apple dipped in honey on Jewish holiday Rosh haShana was most likely not an apple, but a quince, since apples did not grow in Ancient Judea, but quince flourished. For those who like marmalade, the word actually means quince jam, from Portuguese marmelo – quince.

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Quince was an emblem of the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite, and a poem that came to us summarized in prose describes a young man called Acontius who, seeing his beloved in the courtyard of the temple of Aphrodite, plucks a quince from the “orchard of Aphrodite”, inscribes its skin, and furtively rolls it at the feet of the young lady’s illiterate nurse.  Her curiosity aroused, the nurse hands inscribed fruit to the girl to read aloud, and the girl finds herself saying “I swear by Aphrodite that I will marry Acontius”. A vow spoken in the goddess’s court cannot be broken, so our first quinceanera is now as good as engaged (M.B. Skinner, Catullus in Verona: a Reading of the Elegiac Libellus 2003). I hope it was a happy union!

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I have not seen quince in 40 years, as it doesn’t grow in tropics, so you can imagine my excitement when I was cutting it into bite size pieces, squeezing lemon juice into the pot, adding water and zylitol, bringing it to boil, and then simmering, and simmering, and simmering… Yes, Beautiful People, it is the easiest dessert you’ve ever made: all you have to do it cut it, skin on, put it into a pot, seeds included, and add some lemon juice and sugar or substitute, but it takes at least a couple of hours for it to acquire that gorgeous golden pink shimmering color and intense flavor.

Quince 3

According to Encyclopedia of Cultivated Plants, when a baby is born in the Balkans, a quince tree is planted as a symbol of fertility, love and life. Modern science has discovered that quince indeed promotes a healthy life: “The health benefits of quince include its ability to prevent cancer, aid in weight loss, improve digestive health, reduce cholesterol, and boost the immune system. It also prevents gastrointestinal diseases, soothes inflammation, improves the health of your skin, decreases blood pressure, prevents allergic reactions, and stimulates circulation in the cardiovascular system ” (www.organicfacts.net). So chill your delicious quince compote, enjoy a bowl or two, and feel like a very healthy queen of a grand ball!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 quince fruit
  • 1 cup sugar or sweetener of choice (adjust per taste)
  • 1/2 lemon squeezed or 1/4 cup lemon juice (adjust per taste
  • 1 gallon water

PROCEDURE

  • Cut quince into bite size pieces, put into pot, add the rest of ingredients.
  • Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cook for 2 hours, adding water when evaporates. Taste to adjust sweetness and acidity.
  • Remove from stove, chill to serve.

Enjoy!

55 Comments Add yours

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Joe!

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      1. joe_mandiya says:

        Welcome dear
        Please are you having any YouTube channel and do you often visit YouTube??

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t have a YouTube channel, and I only visit YouTube occasionally, to find videos that illustrate my posts. Sorry to disappoint you, dear friend!

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      3. joe_mandiya says:

        Ok dear
        You can enjoy my channel if you like https://youtu.be/yb5jPJ7ZzHs

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  1. More fascinating cultural history. I had a go at a waltz in my teens: https://derrickjknight.com/2012/07/04/no-one-forgets-a-good-teacher/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your attempt to waltz is commendable; however, your depiction of your teachers is simply delightful, Derrick.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks very much for reading it all, Dolly, and for the lovely comment.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Anything you write I read with great pleasure, Derrick, and that one was lovely.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Delicious! One of my most favorite fruits. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember your quince recipes. Thank you, dear Ronit!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice post, Dolly 🙂
    In my last house here in Spain, I had a tree with this fruit. I must admit, that they are not for my taste, much too sweet. So I gave them away every year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s why we add lemon juice. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting, dear Irene!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A_Boleyn says:

    Thank you for sharing the story behind the traditions of quincinera and the simple recipe for poached quince. Quinces, local or imported, are available starting in the fall in our grocery stores so I’ve been able to enjoy this glorious fruit in various forms over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so lucky! I’ve missed it for so many years, and finally it appeared. Thank you for stopping by, dear friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. purpleslob says:

    What a pleasure it must have been, after 40 years!! It’s an amaZIng fruit. Just like all the quincinera dresses I’ve seen!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course, you are also in Florida, dear purple person; you must have seen your share!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. spearfruit says:

    Intresting post Dolly

    Love how you blend the story with a wonderful recipe!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Gary!

      Like

  7. What a romantic post. Thanks very much for sharing, Dolly! 🍃🌸💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Gail!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. CarolCooks2 says:

    Ahhhh now I know what that fruit is I have seen drying outside houses and on the market stalls…Thank you, Dear Dolly, and for the lovely story 🙂 xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am surprised that you didn’t know it, dear Carol! I urge you to try a compote, jam, or preserve – delicious and nutritious!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. CarolCooks2 says:

        I didn’t know…always learning which is good…I see so much that is different here all the time…I have been here 7 years and still I am discovering new foods but I will try what you suggeat dear Dolly…Thank you 🙂 xx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My pleasure, dear friend! Have a great weekend!

        Like

  9. lghiggins says:

    I’ve never had quince; I’ll keep a lookout for it after I return to the U.S. This is a fun post. Last year in visiting the town of Quiroga, Michoacán, Mexico, I happened upon a quinceañera parade. It was not on as grand a scale as what you showed but it was special to the participants decked out in their finery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Linda, it’s not easy to find quince in the U.S.; I had not seen it in 40 years – that’s why I was so excited! Good luck, and thank you for a lovely comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lghiggins says:

        40 years? That must have been a shock to come across it! I had no idea it is so rare in the U.S.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, I was literally jumping up and down in the aisle of that market! My husband tried to calm me down, until I told him what those funny not-apples were. Now he wants me to make it all the time. It’s his childhood memories, just like mine!

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  10. weggieboy says:

    Just like you, Dolly! Food for thought along with a recipe for food of the edible variety! I don’t think I’d recognize a quince if I came across one, but this certainly makes me hope I do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry to say, but chances are you won’t see one in your neck of woods, Doug, and that’s a shame.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Joëlle says:

    Dolly, I haven’t made « marmelada » in a very long time! Our quince tree fell down a couple of years ago, about the same time as we seriously started reducing our sugar intake. Keeping the seeds are essential: they contain the pectin necessary for a firm spread. May I add a word of advice on the recipe? Quince paste is not only a lengthy process, but also a dangerous one: the fruit and sugar mixture bubbles and spits up as lava erupts from the mouth of a volcano 🌋, so it is wise to make it in a deep pot, using a long wooden spoon… Some nasty burns I got!
    Have a nice Sabbath day, thank you for this lovely post, Dolly!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny you should say that, dear Joelle! We’ve never made quince paste, but the preserve has always been cooked in a very deep pot, stirred by long wooden spoons. I still have a couple of those spoons, although I haven’t made preserves in ages!
      Have a wonderful weekend, dear Joelle!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. notamigrant says:

    I wrote about quinces once and no one knew what they were!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know; they are not common in the US, nor in many other countries, unfortunately. Thank you for stopping by, dear friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. That’s a Greek legend i had missed, and i studied many. It sounds so good and easy, i will see if they have quince at any stores here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You also live in a climate where quince doesn’t grow. My guess would be to try Whole Foods, perhaps. Thank you for stopping by, dear Mimi!

      Like

  14. Balvinder says:

    I have never had quince, Dolly. How does it taste?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you could imagine, dear Bal, a combination of sweet apple, pear, and lemon, but I do add more lemon juice, otherwise it is too sweet to my taste. It is quite aromatic, and excellent in terms of nutrition. Thank you for stopping by, dear friend!

      Like

  15. Cute! I have never made anything successfully with a quince.

    My aunt used to make a quince and turnip casserole (it might have sweet potatoes 🤔) that was wonderful. I was never able to replicate it. 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have never seen quince combined with anything else, let alone vegetables! We had a quince tree, and during the summer we always made compote and preserve. That’s the extent of my experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmmm. My aunt (A”H) was a wonderful cook. Too bad I didn’t write it down when I had the chance.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Good idea! Great recipes should not ever be lost.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You will laugh. I actually found some savory recipes with quince and root vegetables and sweet potatoes. That must be where my aunt got the idea.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I have to look into it, thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    A RARE, BUT QUINCE-ESSENTIAL (!) FRUIT! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging with a pun, dear friend!

      Liked by 1 person

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