What I had after dinner:

Quince candy

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Variously known as "quince leather" or "quince paste", and "pâte de coings" in French, this is essentially a jam or marmalade that has been concentrated until it becomes chewy. The intense flavor of the quince works particularly well for such a confection.

The quince looks like a large green apple, both in overall shape and in its internal structure, but the inner part -- the little fibrous capsule that encloses the seeds -- is considerably tougher and grittier than its counterpart in apples and pears, and must be removed thoroughly.

For about one pound, two quinces are peeled and cored carefully, sliced thin, and placed in a small sauce pan with enough water to cover. They are cooked, covered, until very soft, or about 45 minutes. The fruit pulp is then mashed in a food mill or is passed through a fine-meshed sieve to eliminate any possible bit of tough core. It is returned to the pan together with the cooking liquid (which contains a major part of the pectin), and boiled gently with occasional stirring until it begins to come off the bottom during stirring. At this point the mixture begins to turn a reddish ginger color.

Off the stove, a cup of sugar is added and well mixed in; the mixture becomes more liquid as the sugar dissolves. It is then returned to the stove, and brought back to a boil with a heat diffuser. The diffuser is absolutely essential to prevent scorching. The mixture is boiled gently with stirring until it becomes quite stiff, about the consistency of jam, and does not flow rapidly back on itself when lifted with a spatula. The color continues to deepen as cooking proceeds until it becomes a dark orange-brown.

Two sheets of aluminum foil are buttered lightly, and the hot mixture is flattened between the two sheets with a rolling pin, to a thickness of a bout 1/4 inch. Note: the paste is very hot and can cause severe burns, because it sticks. Never touch it with bare hands; always use spatula and rolling pin until it has cooled.

When the paste has cooled to room temperature (it is best to leave it overnight), the top foil is removed and the paste is cut with a wheel cutter (or a buttered knife) into rectangles or lozenges that are tossed into crystallized sugar (or granulated brown sugar -- not regular brown sugar) to prevent them from sticking. They are finally left to dry overnight on a screen or rack.

Makes about 50 pieces.

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