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Leccese Quince A delicacy prepared in Autumn, when the quince are ripe by Dario Ersetti
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Leccese candied quince, a real delicacy. Photo by Dario Ersetti

    In 1982 the European Union Community decided that marmalade can only be made from citrus fruit, so fruit preserves made with other types of fruit became labeled as jam from that point on. Curiously, as a decision, it has no historical background. The word “marmalade” derives from the Portuguese word “marmelo”, which means quince.

     And with the quince, which ripen in Autumn since time immemorial in the province of Lecce, “cotognata” is made. It is a tasty solid treat which can be consumed for the rest of the year, and it is much better than any quince jam or “marmalade”.

      Despite being a specialty of Lecce, cotognata has spread to other parts of the world. Henri Philippon, for example, gave us the recipe in his book Cuisine et du Quercy Perigord, published by Denoël in Paris in 1979. It is said that even Eve’s famous apple was really a quince.

      There does not appear to be an official recipe for Leccese cotognata, even if the various recipes differ little among themselves: cook the quince, with or without water, add in the right amount of sugar in either a 1:1 ratio or 0.7:1 ratio (700 grams of sugar per kilo of fruit), and if you want, add some lemon juice. We suggest the one with less sugar: it leaves more room for the intense flavor of the quince.

 

The recipe

 

- 1 kg of quince

- 700 g of sugar

- lemon juice (optional)

 

     Core the quince, cut them into pieces then put them in a pan and add enough water to just cover them, and cook over low heat. When the quince have reduced to almost a mash consistency, pass them through a sieve and then return them to the pan and add 700 g of sugar for every kilo of uncooked quince. Cook over low heat until the mixture has taken on a nice brown color and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Pour the contents onto a lightly oiled marble surface and lift the quince mixture with a spatula into a uniform shape with a height of 2-3 cm. When the mixture has completely cooled, cut it into squares and let them dry in a cool place before you wrap them in waxed paper.

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