“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
-Roald Dahl, The Twits
I spent a couple years attending an international school in Hong Kong when I was younger, and though the experience didn’t have a huge effect on me (you can hardly call 5, 6, and 7 the formative years), I came away having read a lot of Roald Dahl. The Twits was one of those stories that left me especially wide-eyed. It’s not fantastical really, not like James and the Giant Peach, or The BFG, and yet, I think it branded me with a sort of irrational fear that if I was bad, all sorts of horrible, completely off-the-wall fates would happen to me. Because the Roald Dahl universe is twisted and creepy, the kind of place where people are just as likely to turn into ducks overnight as they are to turn blue and blow up. But ultimately, it’s unexpectedly kind (but only towards good children) and instills a sense of wonder into young, impressionable minds.
That’s kind of how I feel about this quince sorbet. It comes out beautifully, and yet, the fruit to start with is the unlikeliest of heroes. In fact, it’s just plain ODD. First of all, the quince reminds me of a gnome, squat and ancient and completely unreadable. This impression isn’t helped by the fact that it’s covered with a dense fuzz, or that it doesn’t DO anything when it ripens except turn yellow. (Your best bet is to smell it – its scent will intensify into a perfumed cross between a pear and an apple). Cut into it, and you realize how hopelessly unworkable it is, the fruit equivalent of scratching your nails across chalkboard. Dense, like cheap furniture comprised of packed sawdust, its flesh is not amenable to most knives. I had to twist mine in, shimmying back and forth, until it finally relented.
But slip it in a pot of water and let it slowly simmer away, and a transformation occurs. The quince softens, slowly letting the water seep into its parched veins. And in exchange, the water turns pink. That seems like a pretty fair exchange to me, because once you puree the entire contents of the pot and run it through your ice cream machine, you end up with a sorbet that’s a fairy tale pink. The pink of cotton candy, and fairy wings, and giant gumballs.
See what I mean? This quince sorbet would fit perfectly in the wacky world of Dahl.
(By the way, I took the picture above after about an hour of simmering. After three hours, the color was substantially more intense, almost a burgundy-pink. It lightened considerably after being churned in the ice cream machine.)
QUINCE GINGER SORBET
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes 1 quart
3 ripe quince (about 1-and-a-half pounds)
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
6 cups water
Juice from half a lemon
1 coin of fresh ginger about 1/4″ thick
Peel, quarter, and core the quince. Put it in a large pot along with the sugar, water, lemon juice, and coin of ginger, and simmer, uncovered, for an hour. If you want the color to intensify, cover the pot and let it simmer another two to three hours.
Blend the mixture (I used my immersion blender) and force it through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Cool and refrigerate, ideally overnight. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream machine. Transfer to an airtight container, and freezer further.