Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kweeperen and kaki in the markt

Have you ever read about something interesting, and then decided to see it for yourself, only to find your expectations totally obliterated?  A dinosaur that was smaller than it seemed in the book, for instance, or meeting a Maine Coon cat that looks as big as a small lion--things that were much more or less impressive than your research had led to believe?  Meet quince fruit:

Kweeperen, or quinces, are great for jamming.  So I've heard, anyway.  I have never had a quince before, much less tasted quince jam.  Supposedly it's a marvellous accompaniment to game, but it also works great as, well, just a jam.  But since I'd never seen them around before, kweeperen had always occupied the same mythical food space that foie gras does:  conceptual, theoretical food.  Certainly, not something that was this big. For some reason, I was always under the impression that quince fruits were the size of a large-ish apple.  These suckers, though, are the size of a small watermelon.  And, given how heavy the shopper was to haul up to our apartment, they must have weighed just as much.

It was through pure luck that I ran into them at the markt one Saturday.  Karel had mentioned raiding some old estate he knew about and filching their kweeperen off the trees to make quince jellies, but I don't think he'd actually do such a thing, and he never thought he'd actually get a chance to make it.  These are not things that are regularly sold, not even at the greengrocer's.  Still, even though most people probably wouldn't know what to do with a kweepeer if grandma beat them over the head with a jamming jar, they don't count as "exotic".   They may be delicacies, like gooseberries (kruisbessen) and red currants, but they're not truly strange and the Dutch don't do a "WTF" when they see them, unlike, say, with kaki fruit.

Kaki (persimmons) have been around for a few years--one Allerhande recipe goes back to 2006--but they just started making their appearance in the Nijmegen markt this year.  One of the reasons for such a long intro period is that I--and, if Karel is indeed typically Dutch in this respect, most Dutchies--find their ripened state to be unpalatable.  They are soft, and indeed almost gooey.  The fruit tastes a bit like a very sweet papaya, which is not my favorite fruit to begin with, and coupled with that slimey texture, it renders itself inedible.  So why did I get 5 of these?

Because if you get them before they are ripened, they are crunchy, almost like a good apple or a crisp pear, and the papaya flavor is quite mild.  Karel likes them pre-ripened, so I keep them in the fridge to prevent unwanted changes in the fruit.  Still, I wonder:  Karel can remember the introduction of kiwi fruit to the Dutch supermarkets, and now they are inescapable (kiwi being the one fruit that is always on sale at one supermarket or another).  Will kaki suffer the same fate?

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