Cooking with quinces
How to prepare this gnarly, old-fashioned fruit and how to bring its fragrance to your autumn table
Quinces are in season from April to June but only occasionally will you see them in shops - and then usually at a specialty food store or at your local greengrocer. However, the good news is that this year quinces are already cheap buying at farmer's markets and, potentially even better, you may get a load for free if you ask around. There are a lot of old trees out there laden with fruit which often goes to waste - quinces take patience to cook and it's not as if you can pick one from the tree and bite into it; they cannot be eaten raw. Quinces are way too astringent and fibrous (which does mean they are an excellent source of fibre when cooked). They are also high in vitamin C.
There are two main varieties of quince: a highly acidic, rounded quince which is used mainly for making jams, and another variety which is more pear-shaped and slightly sweeter.
Choose fruit that is firm (never soft) with a pale yellow skin - its white woolly covering should be nearly gone. A little green is fine as long as the skin isn't still too fuzzy. The fruit will ripen in a few days if left at room temperature. Cooking will bring out its floral notes. Quinces bruise easily but keep well if refrigerated in a plastic bag.
Quinces can be cooked in several ways. Peter Gordon shows how to poach them on the stovetop. And, below, Lois Daish poaches hers in the oven. They can also be cooked in a slow cooker or baked and are superb added to desserts and cakes, in jellies and paste to serve with cheese, along with savoury dishes such as tagines.
Try Lois Daish's simple method here. She says the quince is good for breakfast with slices of raw or poached pear and crunchy raw nashi.
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
Preheat the oven to 160C.
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, forming a syrup.
Pour the syrup into a Pyrex casserole dish.
Wash the down off the quinces, cut into quarters, peel and core.
Cut each quarter in half. Slip the slices into the syrup and cover with a lid or seal tightly with foil.
Bake for about 3 hours until the quinces are very tender and fruit and syrup are both deep red.
Quinces poach really well in the slow cooker, Kathy Paterson says, and although they may discolour as you peel them, they emerge a lovely blush peach colour.
Angela Casley bakes quinces in the oven after lightly poaching them in a slightly sweet syrup on the stovetop. She finishes them with a maple drizzle and pistachio nuts. She recommends serving them with mascarpone or a good quality vanilla icecream.
Add them to other dishes
Poached quinces are combined with almonds in this magical Fleurieu Cake. You can double the amounts if you want a higher cake. When out of season, quinces can be easily replaced with poached pear quarters.
Add them to apple in Nadia Lim's yummy autumn crumble.
It's an oldie but perennially good with cheese. Amanda Laird's quince paste recipe is scented with ginger too.
You've got to exercise patience when you set about making Warren Elwin's rose-scented quince jelly. First you've got to make the jelly and then you've got to wait a few weeks for the flavour to intensify. Try to wait it out ... your morning toast (or a scone) will never be the same again.
Quinces and lamb are the stars of one of Morocco's classic tagines. Here they are cooked and served alongside the slow-cooked stew. It's a combo you should know about if you are lucky enough to have a quince tree.
Warren Elwin cooks them up slowly with apple juice and then strains the liquid to make a refreshing drink. Reduce the nectar and you have syrup which tops your pancakes to perfection. It is great added to soda water and, Warren recommends, a nip of gin as well.