This confection of quinces and sugar is typical of the canton of Zurich and surrounding areas, but is known and eaten in much of the rest of the country. An ancient recipe for Quittenpästli (the German for "quince paste") can be found in a 1751 cookbook, but the product was already being mentioned in documents from the 16th century written by a famous doctor from Basel, who praised the quince paste’s nutritional properties.
In Zurich it is considered a typical Christmas sweet. Each family has its own traditional recipe, but artisans use the version in the cookbook written by Lina Rytz in 1835.
The main ingredient is quinces, once commonly grown throughout German-speaking Switzerland, their trees an essential element of the hilly landscape. In the past, as now, the quince trees were not officially cultivated, but used as ornamental trees in gardens and parks, their fruits picked to make jams and sweets.
To make the quince paste, the fruits are peeled, deseeded and cut into cubes. The cubes are soaked in water overnight.
The next morning the liquid is strained off and can be used to make fragrant jellies. The quince cubes are meanwhile combined with an equal quantity of sugar and cooked for several hours, stirring constantly, until they break down into a smooth paste.
The paste is then dried for several days before being cut and sprinkled with sugar. The final product is orange in color, with a gummy consistency and a characteristic tart ﬂavor.
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