If you remember from last week, I tried two times to make Paste of Genoa (pg 116 in Best) using apples. I suspect part of the reason for my failure lies in the fact that our produce today is different from what it used to be: I am still trying to find good sources that will explain how vegetables and fruits looked in the 17th century, but from what I’ve read in other sources it seems that apples were much smaller. Today, I am trying this paste (again) using Red Bartlett pears, which seemed to be the most firm variety available at the Co-op. Here’s a reminder of the recipe:
To make a paste of genoa, or any other paste.
To make paste of Genoa, you shall take quinces after they have been boiled soft, and beat them in a mortar with refined sugar, cinnamon, and ginger finely searced, and damask rose-water till it come to a stiff paste; and then roll it forth and print it, and so bake it in a stove; and in this sort you may make paste of pears, apples, wardens, plums of all kinds, cherries, barberries, or what other fruit you please.
I am also implementing what I learned from the last attempts in the hopes that it will produce the paste-y texture I seek!
The Cooking Process
I boiled the pears until they were just soft enough to be mashed, hoping this would keep any excess water from them. I then strained them, put them back into the pan, and mashed them. Last time, I let the apples sit in the strainer for about 5 minutes while I used the back of a spoon to press any excess moisture from them. This time, I did that several times to make sure I get all the water out that I could. I measured out equal weights of sugar and fruit pulp and combined them, but ran into the same problem I ran into with the apple paste, where the sugar would start dissolving right away (see photo below).
I thought I would have to scrap this recipe, until it occurred to me that I could have just put all this fruit in the food processor from the beginning, and that would make a much finer fruit pulp than I would be able to do by hand with a plastic potato masher. I put the sugary pears into the food processor, then strained them again (bringing me down to about 1/4-1/3 cup of pear pulp). I added more sugar along with the ginger, cinnamon, and rose water, and it seemed like it *might* be turning into paste. Sugar still dissolved, but it dissolved less, and I was able to get it into the mold well enough.
The last time I did this, I tried to bake the paste very slowly, and discovered that all it did was make a sugary soup in my oven which was very unpleasant to clean. To avoid a repeat performance, I baked it in the mold (it was still a little too soft to just shape in the mold and then bake) on high to see if that would help. The answer is: no, it does not. Still got the same bubbly soup. It confirms my suspicions that the pears and apples we find commonly today are just not close enough to reproduce this recipe. You’ll notice that Historic Food’s Quince Recipe page has these decorative pastes made from quinces, so it may be that I would need to use those. The quince paste is also very thin, and I was unable to get either the pear or apple pastes to be wafer-thin in my pan. After three tries, I think it’s safe to say that fruit pastes and I are not going to meeting again anytime soon, so I’ll be moving on in the coming weeks to try other recipes. Sorry Markham.