Quince, quark and quackers..err, I mean crackers

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How do you plan out food combinations? Obviously flavours play a big part in determining if a dish works or ends up a strange mish-mash. But sometimes, I can’t help but put things together based on the sound of each individual item.

For instance, I once made a pancetta, pea and pumpkin risotto, topped with pecorino.
(I’ll have you know I’m not the only person who loves alliteration. Just ask Grace ☺)

And of course, when I saw quince, I had to team it with quark. 


I thought a quark was something one encountered in physics lessons, but as it turns out, it’s a type of cheese. I first came across this cool ingredient over at Passionate about Baking, and then found a recipe at What's For Lunch, Honey?.

It sounded pretty simple, and it was!  Basically you let buttermilk ferment, then hang it in cheesecloth to drain it. Meeta’s recipe required the buttermilk to be left in a low oven overnight. I feel a bit funny about leaving the oven on when I’m asleep, so after much googling, I found a suggestion to wrap the buttermilk  container in clean tea-towels to keep it warm (sorry, I can’t find the link again).

I thought a combination of the two might work, so I heated the oven (about 80˚C I think, not too high or it will kill the buttermilk culture), poured a 1L carton of buttermilk into my very well cleaned casserole dish, bunged the lid on and wrapped the whole thing in a two clean tea-towels. I popped this into the oven and turned the oven off. After leaving it overnight, I tried pouring the mixture into a cheesecloth (muslin) lined sieve but seemed to be losing quite a lot of the milky fluid. So I poured it all back into the casserole dish, turned the oven on again (about 70˚C or so), and put the dish back into the oven for a couple of hours.

Then I poured the mixture back into the muslin-lined sieve. This time it worked, I left it to drain for a while then proceeded with the recipe that Meeta provided. The only thing I did differently was -  after hanging the cheese at room temp for a couple of hours  (when it had stopped dripping), I placed the muslin ball in a sieve, over a bowl, and placed the whole thing in the fridge overnight before removing the quark.

I was quite surprised to find only a small amount of quark produced from a whole litre of buttermilk. It tastes very interesting, almost like a yoghurt rather than a cheese, and the best part - low fat content. Get that creamy texture minus the guilt!

Paired with some stewed quince and store-bought water-crackers, the quark proved to be a winner. In fact, MC Senior thought I had actually bought the “special white cheese”, because it “tasted so good, I didn’t realise you made it” (what does this say about the rest of my meals?).

As for the stewed quince, I peeled, cored and diced two medium sized quince, placed them in a saucepan with about ½ cup sugar (I like it a bit tart, add more sugar to taste),  just enough water to prevent burning and sticking (about ¼ cup) and one vanilla bean. Then I left it to simmer on a very low heat for hours (at least 4 I think). Check and stir every once in a while, adding a slurp or two of water if necessary.

The long cooking time ensures that the quince becomes beautifully coloured. I used to think that some quinces became red while others only cooked pink, but according to Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander, long and slow cooking is what gives the quince its brilliant hue.

The aroma of the cooking quinces is just amazing. MC Senior kept begging to eat some. In fact, I actually ended up making two batches of the quince because the first lot got eaten before the cheese was ready!

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of quince: every book I’ve seen says that raw quince is unpalatable. I actually quite like the flavour and usually munch on a raw slice or two while getting it ready for the pot. I thought this was a bit weird until I saw a guy at the beach the other day eating a quince like an apple…skin and all! Strange but true.


sarah @ syrupandhoney said...

oooh I want to try this! i didn't know that was how it was made.

veggie belly said...

hehehe, your title made me giggle! yum!

Barbara Bakes said...

I love reading about all the cheeses Deeba's been making too. I haven't ever eaten quince, so both of these would be a really treat for me.

Anh said...

oh! I love this. I've been exprimenting with quinces this year and have a small "accident". Ha! will see if it makes to the blog :)

Vanille said...

I can see you like to ferment these last days ;)
I really like the aroma of quince too.
And what you have prepared is the kind of treat I can enjoy all day long !

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

hehe I like your alliteration! And good on you for making your own quark too. I haven't made that yet, only mascarpone! :)

grace said...

you know that's right!!! there's nothing like a little alliteration to inspire a dish. :)
homemade quark? awesome. once again, shaz, you do good work (and make me chuckle).

JT @ areyouhungary said...

Quakers! Quelicious!

shaz said...

sarah - there's a couple of different ways. A lot of recipes call for milk and buttermilk but I liked Meeta's recipe because it seemed the simplest.

veggie belly - I was cracking up too when I thought of it :)

Barbara Bakes - do try quince if you get a chance, it is really worth the effort.

Anh - I hope it does make it to the blog, would like to see what it is

Vanille - Trying to gain confidence, I'm working my way up to sourdough :)

Lorraine - hope you have a go, it's actually simper than I thought. The trickiest part was trying to decide where to hang the cheese. I ended up hanging it off one of the kitchen cupboard doors.

grace - thanks dear. The feeling is mutual :)

JT - Thank Q!

Barbara said...

I am sooo impressed, Shaz! You made your own quark! The dish looks great; I love quince (eat quince jam all the time) and I love your post title...it made me smile!

Hungry Dog said...

Wow, what a great combination! You never cease to impress me. Making your own quark and stewed quince...too cool. I love quince, by the way.

The Cooking Photographer said...

Hi Shaz!

I'm just stopping by to see what you've been up to. My life is crazy right now, my brain is mush, and I can't think anymore lol.

I need a vacation! :)

Hope you're well over there.


3 hungry tummies said...

Delicious! I was given a few quince the other day, I should be making something like this but since no one eat sweets in this household I will have to turn it into a savoury stew :(

shaz said...

Thanks Barbara - quince jam sounds delicious, i don't think I've ever tried it.

Hungry Dog - you never fail to make me feel great with your awesome comments :)

Laura aka The Cooking Photographer - oh, do hope it all slows down for you. *hugs*

3 hungry tummies - I've heard quince goes well with roast meat...would love to see your savoury take on it!