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[Samia`s food facts and recipes]Quince or is it mogwa?

In September of 2006, I got back in touch with an old friend of mine named Cal. She now lives in Olympia, Washington, but we met when she lived here in Seoul and our daughters sang Christmas carols together. Cal e-mailed me recently about this column, asking if I`d ever considered doing a column on mogwa, a fruit she discovered when she lived here. I didn`t know what mogwa was, but a little research revealed that mogwa is the Korean word for quince! Of course, I am quite familiar with this fabulous fruit, having a Jordanian background (quince is very popular in the Middle East.) I decided it was high time to make quince jam. It brings back fond memories of my childhood days. Also, I`d like to dedicate this column to the lovely lady who suggested this fascinating ingredient.
Quince is a fragrant, pear-shaped, golden yellow fruit belonging to the rose family (Rosaceae), and it is related to apples and pears. The Korean word for quince (mogwa) is derived from Chinese characters meaning "hairy fruit," because of the skin`s fuzzy texture before maturation. Quince is usually not edible unless it is cooked, although there are varieties that can be eaten as one would eat an apple. Quince is high in pectin, which is a natural jelling agent, and it is high in tannins, which causes the quince to be quite tart when eaten raw. Aside from being a delicious ingredient in many dishes, quince is also used for medicinal, industrial, and cosmetic products. The tannins in quince help tenderize meat, and it is an outstanding fruit for jams, jellies, stews, meat dishes, and many desserts.
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One can buy quince in traditional farmers` markets around Namhansanseong by Seong-nam, but I was able to find quince for sale in nearby Itaewon. They are expensive, but well worth it. The fragrance and flavor are like nothing you`ve ever eaten before; I guarantee it. I am so surprised that so many people have no clue what quince is and how to eat it!
Quince is native to areas with warm, temperate climates, such as Iran, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, and southwest Asia. The ancient Greeks discovered quince because they occupied parts of modern-day Iran. Quince is now grown on the island of Crete, in southern France, Italy, and California. Middle Easterners make jam from quince and Moroccans use it in stews. Quince is used in Turkey for special desserts. In Iran and the Middle East, the dried pits of quince are used to relieve sore throats and coughs. The quince`s many seeds are soaked in water to produce a solution used to treat colds. Koreans use the quince as an air-freshener during the fall and as a tea that is made up of grated quince and sugar. Quince assists in the digestion of fatty and rich foods. In Germany, quince juice is common. Quince can be baked, poached, or stewed. I can imagine how delicious it would be sliced like potato chips and then baked or fried. It is like an apple in many ways, but harder, which is why it usually requires cooking to make it edible.
As with the apple, quince is an ancient fruit and has been around for over 4,000 years, if not longer. The fruit mentioned in the Song of Solomon could be a quince and not an apple as some believe. Historically, the quince was highly prized by Pliny (a Famous Roman writer). Pliny talked about the medicinal value of quince, saying the fruit was important in removing evil spirits. Quince is also part of the mosaics of Pompeii, often shown in the paws of a bear. The Roman goddess Venus was sometimes depicted with a quince in her right hand, a gift from the mythical hero Paris. Virgil`s golden apples may have actually been quinces, because that was the only yellow fruit during that period. Quince was used for wedding rituals during ancient Greece. Greek brides nibbled on quince to perfume their kisses before entering the wedding chamber to greet their husbands for the first time. An ancient Roman cookbook even talks about stewed quince with honey.
As with applies and pears, the nutritional value of quince cannot be overstated. It is loaded with vitamin C and many other nutrients. The fiber content is excellent. As with any fruit, it is a valuable part of a healthy diet. Quince is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and it can help maintain ideal health and promote weight loss. A 100 gram serving of raw quince contains 7.5 grams of fiber and 200 calories, and 100 grams cooked quince with sugar is 350 calories.

Quince Jam

l 8 cups water
l 3 cups sugar
l 2 large quince (about 1400 grams)
l 1 lemon sliced thin



Pierce the quince and microwave for a few minutes to soften it enough to quarter, core and pare. Rinse and chop into small pieces. Combine sugar and water and boil for about 3 minutes. Add quince and cook until fruit is soft and red-colored and syrup is almost at jellying point, about 1.5 hours. Place in sterilized jars and leave 1cm head space. Cap sterilized jars and refrigerate. Use within 2-3 weeks for the best flavor.

(Samiamounts@yahoo.com)

Samia Mounts is a long-time nutritionist and gourmet aficionado. She works as the Assistant Principal at Seoul American Elementary School. - Ed.

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