Since the big move to this new country, we’ve been finding it particularly difficult to balance the need to do well in our new jobs with the desire to travel and explore our new surroundings. We are making more of an effort lately to find this balance, between working hard and still taking time off to travel.
As such, a month or so ago we headed out over the mountains for a much needed mini-break. We stayed near Leavenworth, an adorable Bavarian village style town on the eastern side of the Cascades. Full of cute shops (including the most amazing Christmas shop I have ever seen), beer gardens and restaurants, it was a wonderful place to wander. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side that weekend, and our time consisted mostly of sitting inside or moving quickly between dry shops. We were staying just outside of town, and so were lucky enough to explore the surrounding countryside. This area in Washington is well known for its fruit production, containing an abundance of beautiful orchards. Many of these also had their own roadside stalls, selling apples or pears by the box. So of course, we had to stop and I came away with a huge box full of gorgeous fruit.
One night we enjoyed a nice dinner out in town, including a delicious cheese plate with soft goats cheese, local pear butter and walnuts. This was such a winning combination, and I suddenly knew exactly what I had to do with the slightly ridiculous amount of fruit we bought.
The recipe for the quince paste comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Year.
3-4 large quinces (approximately 1kg in weight)
3.2kg pears, peeled and cored
½ cup water
zest and juice of one lemon
1 ½ tsp vanilla
juice of 1 orange
½ tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
Combine the chopped pears, water, lemon zest and lemon juice together in a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and boil gently for 20 minutes until tender.
Pulse in a food processor until smooth (don’t liquefy).
Measure out 8 cups of puree (you will have a bit of pear sauce left over) and combine with the sugar, orange juice, vanilla and spices.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and boil gently until the mixture thickens and holds its shape. The mixture will reduce to approximately half its original volume.
Transfer the pear butter to sterilized jars.
Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat.
Bring to a boil and boil hard for 5 minutes to make a light sugar syrup.
While your syrup is coming to a boil, peel, core and grate the quinces.
Add the fruit to the sugar syrup and simmer on a low heat, stirring regularly, until reduced to a very thick, grainy paste. This is likely to take up to an hour.
Spread the paste into lightly greased shallow dishes and place in the lowest possible oven for 3-4 hours until hardened.
Cool completely, wrap in greaseproof paper and store in a tightly seeled container in the fridge.
Preheat your oven to 95 C.
Add the juice of one lemon to a large bowl full of water.
Peel (optional) and slice as many apples as you have and add to the lemon water.
Soak for approximately 30 min, pushing the fruit down gently every now and then to ensure the top layers do not brown.
Drain and pat dry.
Place the apple slices on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and transfer to the preheated oven.
Bake for 1 hour, turn the slices over and bake for an additional hour.
Turn the oven off, crack the door open slightly and allow to cool completely.
A few notes:
- For the quince paste: The fruit will take quite a long time to soften and break down, so make sure you are starting with the smallest possible pieces. It is best to grate the fruit rather than chop it up.
- For the pear butter: It also takes a really long time to get from pear sauce to pear butter. Be patient and continue stirring every now and then to prevent sticking. You want the mixture to be a uniform texture (rather than fruit in a syrup) and separate cleanly from the bottom of your pan when scraped with a spoon.
- For the apple slices: These may need longer in the oven, depending on the thickness of the slices and your own preference of chewy vs. crisp. With slightly thicker slices and a shorter baking time you will end up with chewy dried apple, but slice them thinner and bake for longer to get apple chips.