This is the time of year when most of us eat quince cheese. At England Preserves we are busy a couple of months ahead at the peak of quince season, making sure we can meet all the festive demand in December. Journalist Susie Mesure came to visit us and wrote up what she saw.
It’s only October but it already smells like Christmas inside the magical railway arch that is home to England Preserves. Fruit cheese production is in full swing, ahead of the festive season, and the last of the quinces are bubbling away with some sugar and lemon juice in the giant silver vats in the kitchen at the back. I watch the alchemy underway as the ungainly green fruits metamorphose into a luscious pink lava. A few hours later, and the juices drip clear through the “little horse”, a sieve so named for its shape. Like a giant red tongue, the the paste oozes out of the pan into tins and is left to cool before being wrapped in wax paper, ready for those discerning enough to serve quince cheese alongside their Christmas cheeses. The sweet-savoury combination is very in vogue; the sharp, salty tang of a Stilton works particularly well. Or you can slice it and serve it as a petit-fours, like some of the top restaurants. Either way, Sky and Kai’s supplies won’t last long, especially as quinces were in short supply this year after a poor growing season. England Preserves is particular about English quinces, which are superior to their Continental cousins because they aren’t irrigated, so have a firmer texture and are more aromatic. Find this year’s quince cheeses at Neal’s Yard Dairy, or on Saturday mornings at Arch No. 2, 148 Spa Road.