They started out as poached quince—the fruit leather, that is. I peeled the strange green crosses between apple and pair, sliced them down the middle, and set them in to boil. They simmered away, in honey and lemon, leaching tannins and rigidity until finally they sat, soft as mush.
The trouble was, the peculiar, impossibly hard fruits were now too soft. A few days earlier, when I'd picked them up at the market, this had been a mistake impossible to imagine. You could have thrown one from a moving car, stem and all, and found it still intact after the wheels ran it over.
A few of the poached halves were still good, of course, but most had gone over the tipping point from tender to mush. We ate those that hadn't, drizzled with the honey-lemon sauce, a sprinkle of salt, and a pinch of fresh ground nutmeg, and I threw those that had into the food processor.
I'd been wanting to make fruit leather for a long time now, to see if it was really possible like they said in the books. I'd never had the treat homemade, only bundled in plastic and tucked into lunchboxes, but I was eager to give it my best.
Without a dehydrator, this meant careful work. After pureeing the soft fruit with a few spoonfuls of honey, I spread it on a well-oiled cookie sheet with a thermometer on top, and sat down to work. Every hour or so, I turned on the oven to 200 degrees. The mercury shot up to 150, and I turned it off again—my attempt at a homemade machine.
With all but the middle strips, I overshot of course. Afraid of undercooking, I hardened the thin edges into long, brittle crisps. Relinquishing them to trial and error, I sat, marveling nonetheless, at the ones I'd managed. The morning's wet paste of fruit and honey had dried into a pliable, sticky sheet, just like those of the third-grade lunchroom. I took a bite; the flavor was there, and the texture, too, like a chewy bite of ambrosial nectar.
I wrapped what I'd made in thin, wax strips. The paper kept the leather from sticking; a rubber band offered to secure. Tomorrow, I'm hoping for another batch—this time, aiming for perfection.
Fills 1 cookie sheet with 1/8 inch pulp layer
Poach 4 quince, peeled, seeded, and cut in half, in 3 cups water, 1 cup honey, and the peels and juice of 1 lemon. Bring to a boil and then simmer until tender, about one half hour, turning fruit occasionally.
Blend quince in food processor with several tablespoons honey. The mixture should be easily spreadable; if not, add more honey or a bit of the poaching liquid. Spread on a well-oiled cookie sheet or screen, and dry in the oven (kept around 135 degrees) for 4-8 hours. It helps to keep on the convection fan, if you have one. Midway through, when the paste is beginning to harden, cut the leather into strips and flip. This will make removal and drying faster and easier. When dry and pliable but not crisp, roll up in wax paper and tie or secure with rubber band.