Quince

A quince is a beautiful fruit. If you walk near a quince tree you’ll probably catch the fragrant scent before you see the fruits hanging from the branches like golden globes.

quince tree

We have a quince tree near the pond that is particularly prolific this year, which may be because it’s a good year for quince or possibly because Bill no longer has a bonfire next to the tree, which means that this year the branches haven’t been scorched by the flames.

In many cultures the quince is a symbol of fertility and love though it’s not a fruit that you would offer to your true love without cooking it first. The  flesh of a raw quince is dry and unpalatable, its skin inedible and the fruit is so hard that if you tried to bite into it, you’d probably break a tooth. But a cooked quince is another matter.

The best time to pick the quince are when the first ones drop to the ground. Although those still on the tree may not quite be ripe, I find it better to pick them and bring them inside to ripen rather than leave them to grow brown and speckled on the tree or rot on the ground.

This week we’ve been eating quince and apple gently cooked to a lumpy puree (is there such a thing? You know what I mean – a puree with texture) with a dollop of yoghurt for breakfast;  pots of Quince Chutney sit on the pantry shelf and when I buy some more vinegar I shall make Spiced Quince, using the same recipe (give or take a few ingredients) that I use for Spiced Crab Apples.

poached quince

Mostly though I’ve been poaching quince. I make a large enough batch that we eat half and the rest is frozen, ready to bring out in the depths of winter. Should you have a quince or two to hand and fancy eating a dish of warm poached quinces, arm yourself with a sharp knife and a stout chopping surface and get to work.

In a large pan, dissolve 200 g of sugar in 1 litre of water and take off the heat. Wipe off the downy fluff from four large or six or so smaller quince and then peel and halve each quince, dropping the fruit into a bowl of water and the peel into your pan of syrup. You can core them but it’s hard work and once they’re cooked, it’s easy to eat around the core. Lay the halved quince on top of the peel, so that they’re covered with syrup and tuck in three bay leaves, a stick of cinnamon and four cloves or you could use star anise or vanilla pod … Bring this to a simmer, put on a close fitting lid and put in the oven at 150C for 1 ½ – 2 hours , prodding them with a knife to see if they’re done. Some days I leave them in the slow oven of the aga for three hours or more so that they turn a deep russet colour.

When they’re cooked to your liking, scoop the quince into a dish and discard the peel.Boil the remaining syrup to reduce and thicken it a little and pour over the quince.

We eat them warm or at room temperature. They’re good with a little cream and a finger of shortbread but they’d go just as well with ice-cream or slice them and eat as an accompaniment to roast pork instead of apple sauce.

32 thoughts on “Quince

  1. Sam says:

    Quinces always make me thing of The Owl and the Pussycat – ‘they dined on mince and slices of quince’. Your post makes them sound completely delicious and I’m browsing websites for quince trees right now…

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  2. Chica Andaluza says:

    I’ve never had my own quince tree but we’re in Spain right now and our lovely neighbours always gift us plenty. In fact last night, one came round with 17kg of them so tomorrow we’re going to have a session making Quince Jelly which is bulk made here in Andalucia to see us through the next few months! Just in case you want to see how we do it (takes time but very simple) here’s the method http://chicaandaluza.com/2011/11/14/dulce-de-membrillo-quince-jelly/
    Will be taking some back whole to England in the next week or so two and will cook some your way too as they look and sound great!

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  3. Gerlinde says:

    Anne, as soon as I get home I will make your Quince recipe. I get the fruit from my girlfriend who has a tree. Do you let them ripen once you picked them? I am in Luisania and today for lunch I had a arugula salad with Quince dressing. The dressing was clear so they must have used the syrup. Do you have any ideas? It was delicious .

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    • Anne Wheaton says:

      They are just about ripe when I pick them as they all seem to ripen pretty much the same time but I usually leave a couple in the fruit bowl as I like the smell. Quince dressing sounds good – I sometimes make a dressing with a little honey so I suppose I could replace that with a little of the poaching syrup. Definitely something to investigate.

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  4. Mrs Thomasina Tittlemouse says:

    Your quince tree is a joy! And poaching them in a spiced syrup sounds gorgeous. Sadly I have no quinces to lay my hands on but I’ve been giving a glut of hard Conference pears similar oven treatment with absolutely delicious results. Just pears, honey and some water in a casserole as you outline above. Next time I shall add your particular bouquet of spices – I think might work well as a variant on the plain honey. Have a lovely weekend, Anne! E x

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  5. homeslip says:

    I love your twists on recipes. My mouth is watering at the thought of poached quince and I am certainly thinking of adding a quince tree to my allotment this year. The scent of quince is one of my favourite things.

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    • Anne Wheaton says:

      Our quince tree is fairly large, but I guess that you can get smaller varieties. There’s so much to love about quince trees – the blossom, the shape and of course the scent of the fruit.

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  6. fergie51 says:

    Quince is one of those hidden beauties of the food & gardeners world. I planted one in our adjoining laneway because I’ve run out of space for fruit trees in the back yard, this year it has set fruit and I am very excited! Took me some time to appreciate the flavour, but if cooked well I am now an avid fan. The flowers are the prettiest of all fruit trees I think! 🙂

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  7. Joanne Vidal says:

    Have loved quinces since I was a kid. There was an old quince tree in the orchard remnant on our farm in Australia. According to my dad, the early settlers in our area used quinces as pollinators for apples and other fruits. Now however in our part of Canada it is too cold for quince to grow, although apples are everywhere (go figure!). So I have to rely on the occasional imported quince from Chilli.Love the fragrance so they tend to stay far too long in a bowl on the table.

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  8. e / dig in hoart says:

    mum and dad’s quince trees have just started growing their new fruit – teeny fuzzy little things! some still have flowers on them.
    we adore quinces, but I had never tasted them until I moved to Tassie, where many old houses have a big gnarly tree out the back 🙂

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  9. Jane @ Shady Baker says:

    I love quinces Anne, as you may have seen previously. My trees are just starting to set their tiny fruit for next season. Your recipe/technique is very similar to what I do. I believe in cooking with the core intact…it saves precious fruit and chopped fingers x

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  10. nandie in sydney says:

    I love quince, the smell, the colour the very difference to other fruit. I make beautiful, deep red quince paste to serve with cheese or spread over the skin of roasted pork…Yum. My old aunt had a 50 year old tree which gave fruit each year so we ate preserved fruit out of season

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  11. Sarah says:

    I adore quince. Their scent is just delish. Last December I picked them in their immature form, speared them with a cocktail stick and arranged them in a Christmas Wreath. They are beautiful. I’ve never got beyond making quince jelly though or popping a few in an apple crumble.

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  12. dianeskitchentable says:

    I have never tried a quince before but have read about them, usually in posts from other countries (not the U.S.). You give an excellent description of them & fair warning to those who might try biting into a raw one.

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