A few months ago at the market I had an elderly couple come to my table interested in my preserves. It was clear that while his wife glanced at my jams, the husband was eager to talk to me. He asked if I’ve ever worked with quinces, the hard-to-find fruit that’s a cross between a pear and an apple and has the most amazing floral scent. I told him how quinces continued to make the top of my must-try list, but without a local supply, I was out of luck.
With a smile, he related his experiences with quinces and why I should seek them out: As a child, his mother would make quince jam. She was an excellent jam maker and quince jam was his absolute favourite. The aroma of that jam filled the house and it was clear that recalling that memory brought him enjoyment.
As fate would have it, his son grows quinces. On one of his trips through town he brought quinces and I received a call to come and get them. No fruit has filled me with more excitement than the elusive quince and for good reason. Ripe in October and November and basically inedible raw, they are hard as rocks and difficult to prepare, but the results are exquisite and the scent of this fruit urges you to persevere. They have a floral, gentle and comforting smell of all that is good about fall. As I prepared a jam and jelly with these beautiful quinces, I thought of the gentleman and his mother, of food and memory, of love and comfort, of preserving food and preserving memories.
I was equally proud and nervous to drop off the finished preserves to the couple. I was very happy with the results; tart and sweet, like fall itself. Yet, I’m sure they can’t compare to his mother’s. I can only hope I’ve done my job in providing a vehicle to help remember a former time and recall memories of warmth, love and sweetness.