We picked the quinces yesterday. I will stew them tomorrow and puree them and then stand by the stove for an evening or two stirring, like I did last year, but with fewer breastfeeding intermissions. Watching in wonder as the fruit turns from yellow to pink to dark, rich, ruby red. It is the closest thing to alchemy I have ever witnessed in my kitchen and we treasure each glistening square - a year's supply of quince paste to adorn our cheese platters with the memory of summer's harvest.
The quince tree was the only one in our orchard garden to bear fruit as well as last summer. Last year I had peaches piled in bowls, baskets and bubbling away in bottles inside Grandma's old Fowlers Vacola. Apricots were dried and frozen and gorged upon in volumes unheard of. This summer the trees are resting, their blossom damaged by unseasonal rains and the parrots taking their share of the crop. We had enough to eat and enjoy for a week or two, but the quince paste will be the only taste of summer we will be packing between sheets of baking paper and taking with us into winter as autumn returns to the forest.
Already there is a chill in the morning air that speaks to me of Easter and childhood holidays spent camped along the south coast. Sleeping on a hessian camp bed with my sister rolling about in the bunk above, breakfasting on Rice Krispies and long life milk and hunting for Easter eggs in the sand dunes and granite headlands. We are savouring these last days of warmth as autumn's stillness settles over the land, plucking purple figs from the kids' climbing tree and eating handfuls of cherry tomatoes while we chat to the chooks.