Last of the Quinces,
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Baked Quince Compote with Vanilla
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.
How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.
Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!
The dearest hands that clasp our hands, —
Their presence may be o’er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh’d our mind,
Shall come — as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.
Hear not the wind — view not the woods;
Look out o’er vale and hill-
In spring, the sky encircled them —
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold —
Come change — and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate.
Autumn seems to rouse poets into literary motion and there many famous poems that celebrate this season…….the one that immediately springs to mind is Keat’s famous “Ode to Autumn” with his “seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness”….and whist I love this poem, my tastes have changed over the years and I prefer other less sugary attempts at discovering and describing the season now. One of my very favourite seasonal poems is the one above by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Now I am not here to “discuss and debate” this poem, I am simply sharing it, but her words have hope attached to them and the initial melancholy of the poem is overtaken by the eternal hope and renewal towards to end…….and so it is, my quince tree has borne its final fruit and they have come to an end……until next year.
These glowing amber fruits epitomise the season and the colours echo the leaves that are now starting to spiral their way to leaden earth in my garden…..crispy leaves that crackle and spit as I make my way through them to the hen hut; a pleasurable journey reminiscent of childhood games and dawdling to school kicking my way through the start of the day whilst causing a riot of colour and a cacophony of sound on a cold and milky morning. Mornings start later as stars stay out longer and evenings draw in like a pair of heavy curtains, the season is not upon us any more, it is with us and I am glad.
This is a jewel of an Autumn recipe, a baked dessert that is the very essence of the season, a deep and fragrant baked compote of mediaeval fruit with lemons and musky vanilla ~ who cannot fail to smile when this dish of glowing fruit is brought to the table. Serve these simply as they nothing more than a little single cream or maybe a spoonful of crème fraîche, or eat them naked ~ the fruit that is not you ~ although that’s your choice if a roaring fire is going…….these are also wonderful as a pie or crumble filling, but I think it’s a shame to over-gild the lily on this occasion, but the possibilities are there.
Before I leave, I would like to share what I am looking forward to this Autumn…….
- Crumpets by the fire
- Toast made with a toasting fork
- Woolly hats and scarves
- Wood burning fires
- Kicking my way through leaves
- Clear starlit nights
- Wearing my winter boots
- Wearing my bright red duffle coat
- Stews, casseroles, pies, daubes, hot pots and dumplings
- Porridge with honey
- Cosy nights inside
- Writing messages on the frosted windowpanes
- Seeing my breath hang in the air…..
- Warming my hands around a mug of tea, coffee, hot chocolate
- Duvets on the bed
- Long walks to make my fingers and nose glow
- Cooking and baking on my Godin stove ~ similar to an Aga
- Cocoa before bed
- Cobwebs in the morning dew
- Using my cast iron whistling kettle on my woodburning stove
- The smell of bonfires and wood fires
- Bonfire night and bangers and mash
Baked Quince Compote with Vanilla
4 quinces, peeled and cut into quarters
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways
300g white caster sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
2. Peel and quarter the quinces, you can core them too but I don’t always bother and the cores come away very easily once baked and look quite attractive curiously enough! Place them all in an oven proof baking tin or tray and pour the lemon juice over them and then add the lemon zest, turn them around in the juice and zest to cover.
3. Add the vanilla pod halves and then sprinkle the sugar over before finally pouring the water over them. Cover with a lid or tinfoil and bake for 1 hour.
4. After an hour, remove the lid or or tinfoil and turn the quinces around in the juice to cover them all. Return them back to the oven and then turn the oven down to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 3 and bake for a further 45 minutes to 1 hour; the quinces are ready when they have turned a deep pink or amber colour and they are soft to touch, the juice should also be thick and syrupy.
5. Serve them hot with cream or crème fraîche or allow them to cool and use in pies or crumbles.
(Serves 4 to 6)
This has been entered into Ren’s