This recipe is ancient and dates back to at least three generations of Sicilian women. My great-grandmother already prepared this tasty natural dessert using simple ingredients as a delicious treat for children. The main ingredient is the unripe quince, picked up early in the Fall season. This fruit is too sour to be eaten fresh. Still, its plant has an essential task among the others in the orchard, helping the growth and production of all other fruit trees. My grandmother used to prepare a good quince jam to fill biscuits or tarts, but above all, lots of quince bricks. She stored and used Cotognata in different ways, all year-round. For example, when she made the famous Sicilian cannoli, she mixed very small cubes of quince with the sweetened ricotta. At the same time, a few pieces accompanied a cup of coffee in the middle of the afternoon. Cotognata, once a simple food for country people, can be found today in the best Sicilian pastry shops and in only a few areas of Italy. Moreover, it was a natural remedy recommended for children and the elderly when weakened, frail, sick, or affected by seasonal illnesses. I am particularly devoted to Cotognata because it reminds me of when I came back to Sicily to visit my grandparents. Santina, my granny, always made me find a personalized Cotognata brick, which she jealously stored in a cookie jar. Today, I prepare Cotognata following the ancient recipe and using the original terracotta tiles of a hundred years ago with different shapes and decoration patterns. I mix and cook it with patience, paying attention to not being burned by the boil of this "sweet lava" while sending thoughts of gratitude to my grandmother and my ancestors. Finally, my great pleasure is to share each brick with family and friends who look forward to this gift. I choose the form and style of Cotognata brick for each person and package it with love and care.
1. Clean the quinces well, releasing them from bruised parts.
2. Put them in a pot and boil them in water for 1 hour. The quinces are ready when you can easily pierce them with a fork.
3. Drain them, saving one glass of cooking water, and let them cool.
4. Peel, remove the cores and cube the quinces.
5 Pass in a vegetable mill or use the blender until smooth. Finally, weigh the puree.
6. Transfer into a big pot, add one glass of cooking water and 700 grams of sugar for each kilo of puree.
7 Cook over low heat for about 2 hours, stirring with a wooden spoon (not a metal one!) so that the mixture won't stick to the bottom. The mixture will gradually become red and bright, especially if the quinces are wild and natural.
8. Everything is ready when once lifting the spoon, the mixture sticks to it, sliding down very slowly. My grandmother used this metaphorical expression from ancient times: "Cotognata is ready when it sits down."
9. Wet the tiles with a thin layer of water.
10. Fill them with the hot mixture and level the surface.
11. Let them cool, and then let them dry covered with a thin linen or cotton veil for at least two weeks.
12. Turn out the Cotognata's brick with your hands, delicately detaching it from the edges of the tile.
13. Once removed from the tiles, place the Cotognata's bricks on a tray as they are ready to be consumed.
14. To preserve the bricks for a long time (over a year), they must be dried and turned upside down several times. Then stored in a cookie tin jar or cardboard box covered with a linen or cotton veil.