Strictly speaking, cotognata , isn’t for Christmas but for San Martin which falls on the 11 November. However, people make such a lot of it that there’s often a lot of it still around at Christmas, and to be honest, it’s so delicious, why not eat it every day?
It’s essentially a quince jelly (quince is called mela cotogna in Italian) which has been left to dry and has almost the consistency of fudge. Originally it was made in the shape of Saint Martin, but nowadays it’s made in small metal tins, similar to French barquettes.
If you’ve never cooked with quinces, be prepared for your whole house to be filled with the most delicious, sweet, fragrance, somewhere between soft fruit and citrus with notes of fresh apples. Once made, you need to leave the cotognata to dry out covered in cheese cloth or a tea towel for at least a week. So, if you want to make it for Christmas, it’s best to start now
Sometimes cotognata is called persegada but strictly speaking, persegada is made with peaches rather than quinces (persega is Venetian for peach). If you don’t have access to quinces, peaches make a great alternative.
We know that they’ve been eating cotognata in Venice since at least 1300 when it is first mentioned in a recipe book. A version of the recipe given by Domenico Auda in a book published in Venice in 1674 is identical to how it’s prepared today.
- 2kg /4 1/2 pounds quinces (mela cotogna)
- 1 lemon
- 700g / 1 1/2 pounds sugar for every kilo / 2 pounds of cooked quince
- Wash and peel the quinces.
- Cut them in half and place in a large pan of water.
- Cut the lemon in half and add to the pan.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for one hour.
- Drain, keeping the water, and allow to cool.
- Remove the inner part of the quince including seeds.
- Purée and weigh the cooked quince.
- Put in a large pan with 700g (1 1/2 pounds) of cane sugar for every kilo (2 pounds) of quince.
- Add a ladle of the cooking water from earlier.
- Bring to the boil and cook for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Pour the mixture into molds.
- Cover with muslin or a teacloth and leave somewhere cool to dry out for a week.
- Turn out of the molds and enjoy.