I’d seen quince many times in the market, but unsure of what to do with it, just passed it by—until last week. Plucking one of the bright yellow apple-pear-ish fruits from the display, I brought it close and smelled the most lovely fragrance–almost tropical and brightly sweet, vaguely reminiscent of Juicy Fruit gum, or to turn that around—perhaps what confectioners aimed for when they formulated Juicy Fruit. An ancient fruit native to the Caucasus, the quince appears a lot more today in Middle Eastern cookery than it does in the United States. But in Colonial times, cooks here prized quince because it was so loaded with pectin. They followed the ancient Greek and Roman tradition of cooking and preserving the fruit with sweeteners to make jams and jellies. (The word “marmalade” derives from the Greek “melimelon” which means quince packed in honey.)
Colonial cooks also popped quince into “coffyns” (double crust pie shells) and baked them into tasty pies. In fact, joining scads of other unproven theories about the origins of the phrase “Mind your Ps and Qs” some food historians conjecture that it refers to pear and quince pies, common in 16th and 17th century cookbooks.
With a nod to the Ancients and the Colonials, our quince pie includes both honey, spices and a double crust. We’ve included a few Granny Smith apples in the mix, which work well with quince. Your main challenge will be slicing the woody fruit–about as hard as raw acorn squash, so work with care and a sharp knife.
Makes 1, 9-inch pie
Double-crust Piecrust Ingredients
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 cup ice cold butter (2 sticks)
- 4 to 5 Tbsp cold cream or evaporated milk
Quince-Apple Pie Filling Ingredients
- 9 cups quince, peeled, cored and sliced
- 1/2 cup lightly-flavored honey (acacia blossom is nice)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3/4 tsp salt, divided
- 2 to 3 star-anise pods
- 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- 4 Tbsp butter; divided
- 4 Tbsp flour, divided
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 cup cane sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- Egg wash: 1 egg whisked with 1/4 cup milk
- Sanding sugar, or turbinado sugar to top crust
- Make crust: Sift flour, salt and sugar together. Cut in butter until mixture resembles wet sand with some pea-sized bits. Add cold milk 1 Tbsp at a time (using only as much as is needed), stirring with a fork until dough holds together when lightly pressed.
- Spread counter with two overlapping sheets of plastic wrap; deposit dough (which will still be in pieces and crumbs) onto the wrap. Pulling the four corners of the wrap up, use the wrap to pull the dough together, pressing and shaping it into a ball. Open the plastic and divide the dough ball in half. Flatten each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate while you make the filling. (Try to chill the dough at least 1 hour.)
- Make filling: Combine the sliced quince, water, honey, 1/4 tsp of the salt and the star anise pods in medium-large pot. Heat to boiling; reduce to a simmer. Simmer about 10 minutes, stirring gently, until fruit is tender.
- Strain fruit in a colander, saving the liquid. Set fruit aside to cool. Pluck the star anise pods out of the quince slices and put them in the the liquid, leaving them steeping in the liquid as it cools.
- Sift 3 Tbsp of the flour, remaining 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1 tsp of cinnamon with 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar. In a large bowl, toss the sliced Granny Smith apples with this mixture and allow to macerate for 25 minutes.
- Dump all of this (the Granny Smith apples and liquid that has been produced) into a colander and allow liquid to drain off for 10 minutes, capturing the liquid in a bowl.
- In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp of the butter; add the honey-star-anise liquid (pluck out the star-anise pods and discard) and, the liquid you captured from the Granny Smith apple mixture. Whisk until the mixture begins to boil; continue whisking until thickened. Completely cool the thickened juices.
- Toss the Granny Smith apples with the cooled quince slices. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbsp of flour and toss to coat.
- Roll out your bottom pie crust; ease into your pie pan. Fill with 2/3 of the apple/quince mixture. Pour the cooled thickened juices over the fruit; top with remaining fruit. Dot with the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter.
- Roll out your top crust and ease over the pie; pinch and fold top edge; create decorative edge. Cut several slits in the top of the pie to allow air to vent and juices to bubble. Brush top of pie with egg wash; sprinkle with generous sprinkling of sanding/or coarse sugar. For best results: Chill pie in the fridge for a half hour before baking.
- While pie chills, preheat oven to 500.
- Place pie in oven and immediately turn down to 425. Bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees. Decrease temperature to 375 and bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes until top of pie is nicely browned and juices are thickly bubbling through the vents.
- Remove pie from oven and place on rack to cool a bit. For best results: cool for 2 hours before slicing.