The forgotten middle child of the apple and pear family. You may not know this humble autumn fruit or you may know it and hate it because you didn’t know how to handle it. Whatever relationship you have with this strange fruit doesn’t really matter because today I will educate you on this wonderful, tough, golden yellow treasure and hopefully by the end of this lesson you’ll run to your nearest Food Lover’s Market and pick them up while they’re still on sale because quince is gorgeous.
Yo man… I’m one of those guys who has no idea what quince is
Lemme break it down for you. Quince is a fruit (duh) related to pears and apples. It’s an autumn fruit, like its cousins, but with a hard and thick golden yellow exterior. If you come across a quince that’s furry like an unwashed peach it’s unripe but no matter how ripe a quince, it shall remain as hard as a rock. Once you get underneath the tough skin you find an even harder white interior and although it feels and behaves nothing like an apple or pear, you can see the resemblance. It can be challenging to manage and requires a sharp knife, a steady hand, care, and attention and although this seems like a lot of effort to be able to eat a damn fruit it’s so worth it because like all good things in life, you gotta do some work to reap the rewards. I’ve never tried to eat it raw because I know that when a fruit is hard it ain’t ready to be eaten but I can imagine it would be pretty unpleasant to eat. Like rhubarb, you have to cook it to unleash its beautiful pear-like yet distinct sweet taste. That’s quince in a nutshell; a wonderfully subtle and fragrant fruit.
Okay, so how do I cook it?
You’ve got a couple of options when it comes to cooking quince. You can either poach it or stew it. You might be able to bake it although I have never attempted that myself. I don’t know if you would be able to fry quince but you could try it out and tell me how it goes. Perhaps you could steam it too. Essentially quince should be subjected to a substantial amount of heat for an appropriate amount of time to soften and unleash its goodness.
You could poach it in plain old sugar water but add some orange peel, and spices and oh good lord the aromas that will engulf your kitchen will take you to a land of fairies and rainbows. Level up and use wine instead of water for a touch of depth and sophistication. Add some spices to the wine and get a mulled wine/ glühwein experience.
As overwhelming as cooking quince can seem it’s honestly quite simple. All you have to do is peel and chop, place in a pot with water, sugar and spices, put it on the stove and let simmer till soft (about 45 minutes) and you’re done.
But what about the liquid that’s left behind after cooking it
DON’T. THROW. IT. AWAY. You can reduce the liquid by keeping it on the stove once you’ve removed the quince and let that juice turn into a sweet thick syrup. Take that syrup and throw it in a jar. Use that syrup to sweeten anything you like. I myself use it to sweeten my chocolate and quince ice cream. Put it in your tea, pour it over your oats, drizzle it over pancakes, waffles, cakes, and ice cream. Use it to sweeten anything you need sweetened in your life!
Cool story bro, but what do I do with the quince itself?
Cooked quince is incredibly versatile. Throw it in a pie filling or turn it into a tart. I love topping my morning overnight oats with cold quince. It’s absolutely divine topped hot with its syrup on a bowl of steaming oatmeal too. Top your pancakes or waffles with quince. Serve it as a dessert with custard. Make jam! Pile it on a bowl of yogurt and granola or just enjoy it as it is and eat it plain. Be creative and do whatever your heart desires. I made ice cream with it and honestly it’s the best ice cream I’ve made in a very long time.
And there you go. You just got schooled. Now run to your nearest Food Lover’s Market and buy the fruit that epitomizes Autumn. Do it soon too because they’re on sale and are cheaper than apples right now! (In South Africa) Don’t be intimidated by it’s strange appearance and its inability to be eaten raw. Don’t deny yourself the sweet satisfaction of the cooked quince.
- 3 large quinces
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large strip of orange peel
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- thumb sized piece of ginger sliced
- 2 star anise
- Peel and chop quince like you would if you were preparing apples for a pie. No skin. No core. Uniform bite sized chunks.
- Place the chopped quince in a medium sized pot with the sugar, orange peel, and spices.
- Pour in 3 1/2 cups water, place on a stove and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat once boiling and let simmer for 40 to 50 minutes with a loosely covered lid until quince is a slight pink colour and soft.
- Remove quince and place in a container and let liquid reduce by bringing to a boil and allowing it to almost half in volume for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, remove the orange peel and spices and add the syrup to quince if you are not using it for something else. If you are going to use the syrup for another purpose place it in a separate jar.
Store in the fridge for up to a week or freeze.