This is my second winter in Pittsburgh, and like many new comers to the ‘Burgh, I quickly fell in love with the beauty of the changing seasons that you can so distinctly observe in the city. Fall is perhaps my favorite season–it’s not so warm anymore and my vegetable garden is at its peak. Nice memories for these colder winter days.
Between gardening and work, my wife and I find time to take our dog on walks around the city. We have walked through neighborhoods, like Oakland, that were home to many immigrant Italian families. These people might no longer be here but you can still get a glimpse of what once was when you come across the many fig, chestnut, and even quince trees left behind.
Quince trees are loved by Italians and many others, especially Mediterranean cultures, and they are a big part of Spanish culture and cuisine. Membrillo–quince paste–is most popular in Spain and is commonly enjoyed with cheeses like Manchego or used in savory sauces.
So, needless to say, finding a quince tree in the ‘Burgh made it feel even more like home to me. I kept an eye on that quince tree all fall. I quickly realized that the quince fruit was just rolling all over the street and going to waste. The Italian family that once lived there was now replaced by college students with no knowledge of what they had in their yard, and probably no desire to take the time to do anything with it.
I felt I needed to do something with this fruit, I couldn’t let it go to waste! So, I took advantage of this situation and after an almost effortless urban gleaning I had a sack full of quince fruit.
This was a special treat for me, and I decided I didn’t want to just make membrillo (quince paste). I felt the best way to preserve it and use it, not only as a sweet addition but as a savory ingredient, would be to make a quince butter. For this I basically went about it the same way as you would to make the paste, but I used only half the sugar and I reduced the cooking time.
The butter had a bitter, sour citrus quality and could be a great addition to a sweet desert or a chutney.
Everyone was making their cookies and nut rolls for the holidays and I really wanted to use my quince butter for some sort of cookie. Linzer tortes came to mind. They are nothing but a large cookie with some kind of fruit jelly, jam on them–maybe even a fruit butter? I had to try it.
And this is how the Yinzer Torte came to be. “Yinzer” is what some people call Pittsburghers, because locals often say “yinz” instead of the plural “you.” (Pittsburghers say “yinz” the way Southerners might say “y’all.”) The German/Austrian immigrants brought the tradition of this torte to the Burgh, the Italians brought the quince. I combined them.
The sweetness of the dough and the tart finish of the fruit makes this a simple and delicious dessert. Only in Pittsburgh–Yinzer Torte.
Below are a few more photos showing how I processed the quince fruit into the quince butter that I used in my torte recipe.