The quince (or ‘coing’ in French) is a highly revered fruit in our village. In fact the village name, Cotignac, is derived from the ancient word for quince marmalade and everyone goes mad for anything quince at this time of year. So much so that the village even holds an annual ‘Fete du Coing’ which not only provides an opportunity for locals to show off (and more importantly sell) their quince produce, but it also gives the very important ‘Comité du Coing de Cotignac’ an excuse to don their flashy Coing gear and march around the village followed by a bunch of loons playing an array of exotic and rather tuneless instruments (I say loons affectionately as they tend to include my children’s school teachers).
So what exactly is a quince?
Well, to look at, the quince resembles a large pear and it does in fact come the same family of fruit. Only if you were to bite into it’s flesh, you’d find it to be as hard as a rock and altogether rather unpleasantly astringent and sour, although the flesh is highly perfumed.
What can you make with quince fruit?
Quinces are high in pectin and so are used for jam and marmalade (I never really understood the difference between jam and marmalade – can anyone help?) and because of their strong perfume they are often added to apple pies and jam to enhance the flavour. The term “marmalade” derives from “marmelo,” the Portuguese word for this fruit, so I guess this is where marmalade and jam cross over. In German, the word for jam is marmalade and the word for marmalade is…well, there isn’t really one. How confusing is that?
Anyway the fruit, like so many others, can be used to make a type of wine. Because of its often high acidity, which is mainly due to its malic acid content, these wines are, more often than not, sweet dessert wines that are high in alcohol.
For me, the best use of quince is to eat as a firm, deep-red jelly with a sweet and mildly tart flavour which complements many cheeses (the Spanish often eat the quince ‘dulce de membrillo’ with manchego).
This is a village with ambition.
Cotignac has to be one of the few villages in France where demand is such for quinces that – whilst it is a large producer – it still needs to import additional fruit from the Drôme departement, just north of Provence.
Watch this space though, our village is really hanging its hat on the coing, and is hoping to become the first appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) for the fruit in France.
Thanks to René et Maryse Vacca for letting us take photos on their lovely family farm.