A quince purée spiked with an optional splash of schnapps makes for an easy gluten-free dessert during the fall and winter seasons. This light, make-ahead dessert works well after a filling Swiss cheese fondue or raclette dinner, for example.
Hard as a rock, quince soften up when cooked and make an excellent and flavorful fruit purée. My version of quince purée below was inspired by a recipe that appears in a classic Swiss cookbook, Das Fülscher-Kochbuch, by Elisabeth Fülscher. The recipe was sent to me by someone who makes quince brandy in the canton of Vaud. While making this purée takes some time, it calls for very few ingredients and can be made in advance.
An optional ingredient – quince brandy, gives more depth of flavor to this dessert. Known as Quittenschnaps (German) or Eau-de-vie de coing (French), this alcoholic beverage appears within the directory of traditional Swiss food products maintained by Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse (Culinary Heritage of Switzerland). A clear brandy you can find throughout Switzerland, people have been making Quittenschnaps here since about the early 19th century, according to this association. The alcohol by volume for this brandy is typically a little over 40 percent.
- 1 1/2 kilograms (about 3 1/2 pounds) quince, washed, cored and cut into pieces
- 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar (or more, if you prefer it sweeter)
- juice and zest of half a lemon
- water, just until the quince are covered in a pot
- quince schnapps, to taste
- Toppings: whipped cream, fresh mint and pomegranate seeds
- In a large pot, add the zest of half a lemon, its juice and some water. Wash off any of the fuzzy exterior of the quince. Then, cut and core the quinces, placing them immediately into the pot of lemon water to prevent them from browning.
- When all the quince are cut and in the pot, bring them to a boil and simmer for approximately 45 minutes until they soften enough for them to be pressed through a food mill.
- Let the cooked quince cool slightly, and then it through a food mill, removing all the seeds and skins from the mixture. Use a blender to purée the quince until smooth. Add 100 grams of sugar to the quince purée and return it to the stove. Gently heat the mixture to a simmer, stirring almost constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens to the consistency of applesauce. Add more water, if the mixture becomes too thick, and more sugar, if you would like a sweeter purée.
- Once the mixture has cooled, place it in the refrigerate to chill completely. Before serving, whisk in a splash of quince brandy to individual bowls or the entire batch, to taste. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, fresh mint and pomegranate seeds. Best used within a few days of making it.
Where to find Quittenschnaps in Switzerland: