I'm leaving for Paris, and depositing the tykes with their French "grandparents"--great old friends of ours--in the Burgundy region. They live in the countryside as well, but their rain-soaked rural reality is a far cry from that of the Cevennes. Accordingly, I have put together an autumn basket for them, with some of my favorite cevenol products, like a bottle of sun-drenched red from Domaine de Familongue, near Aniane, a bottle of floral yet dry Ambrussum white from St. Christol, and a doux Muscat de Lunel, or dessert wine. I tucked in a local rosemary honey and a mountain floral honey. From my own pantry and garden, there is a jar of summer tomatoes preserved in olive oil, halved, herbed (and colorful as all get out) nestled beside a jam of vanilla and black currant, and one with tart, green-gold Reine Claude plums (greengage) and toasted walnuts. From the farmer's market and neighbors, I added some seasonal finds: small butternut squash; big, fat chestnuts just begging to be roasted; and coing.Coing, pronounced with a silent 'g', and known in the Anglo-Saxon world as quince, has a long history that stretches to the four corners of the world. We somehow seem to have unjustifiably neglected it in these fast-paced modern times. Luckily, you can still find it in the outdoor markets across southern france. Fresh from the tree, it is covered with a down that wipes away at your touch. It is heavy, turning to a deep yellow when ripe, and looks to be an oddly-shaped somewhere between an apple and a pear. Bursting with vitamin C, it cannot be quickly eaten out of the hand however, as it is quite hard, requiring instead long cooking or roasting. In fact, if roasted with sugar long enough, it will blush a charming pink or even deep crimson (depending on the variety). I chop it into largish chunks to roast with butternut squash, adding a touch of sweetening quince jelly to make an easy and delicious compote.I'm happy to add the recipe if you are interested...but for now I still have to pack; the open road and glittering lights of the big city are calling.
Images courtesy of Wikipedia, whose article on quince is worthy reading (I attached a link to it above).