Ask Peter: Poached quinces
I have misplaced one of your earlier recipes (pre 2004) and I am distraught! It was quince, poached with a cinnamon stick, lemon, maple syrup or honey, and that’s all I can remember. Hope you can help as quince season is upon us and this recipe was divine. Helen
I am thrilled that you remember the recipe ingredients and when I read your question I could picture it in the back of my mind. I sat at my computer a few nights ago and thought I’d do a quick search. Two hours later I still hadn’t found it, but I realised that the software I was using to write recipes back in 1996 is vastly different to what I am using now. In fact, some of those older recipes and documents can’t even be read by my computer now. I was devastated to see that many old items have become … null and void. I imagine there is a programme somewhere to help me restore them, but I was feeling rather sad.
I searched for anything with the word quince, then tried to narrow it down with quince + maple syrup. Nothing showed up, so I tried quince + honey, and various other combinations. What I do know about quince is the following though, so it may help us both:
- Quince must be cooked for longer than you think. They are not an apple or a pear, and their texture improves for being poached (or baked) for at least 80 minutes.
- You can cook them unpeeled, although poached, they’re better peeled. Use a potato peeler, then cut into halves or quarters (they’re firm so be careful) and remove the seeds.
- Add the peel and seeds of 2 quince to your cooking liquor − I believe it makes them take on more colour. You can simply add it to the liquor or wrap it loosely in muslin cloth to make it easier to remove.
- To poach quinces, make sure they’re covered with liquid, place a paper cartouche on top with a few little holes in it, then place the lid on your saucepan. This keeps them steamy and tasty.
- They like sugar, and plenty of it. They look better cooked with white or pale sugar — unless of course you’re happy they go dark. Most quince go a pale golden or pink colour — if you use a dark muscovado sugar you lose that aspect.
- They like spices — things such as sliced fresh ginger, red chillies or lemongrass, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise, vanilla.
- They like a little acidity and citrus notes, so use lemon or orange peel (no pith), as well as adding 2 teaspoons lemon juice per quince to the poaching liquor.
- If you prefer to bake them, simply bring to the boil what would be the poaching liquor (but you only need the liquor to cover a third of their depth). Sit them in a non-reactive roasting dish and pour on the liquor. Lay baking parchment on top then seal tightly with foil or a tight fitting lid and bake at 180C for an hour. Take the lid off, baste them frequently and bake a further 30-45 minutes until they colour a little.
- If you make the liquor with a ratio of 1 part vinegar (red wine or cider vinegar work best) to 2 parts water (as well as the various spices etc), they make a great pickle. To do this, slice the peeled halves 1cm thick and poach or bake these — they’ll cook quicker. Once cooked, gently transfer them into a sterilised jar and seal while hot then treat as any preserved fruit.
- A cooked quince is very tender so once cooked leave them to cool in the liquor before placing in another dish. Once they cool they firm back up. Just handle them carefully.
Here's a recipe that’s a hybrid of what it was from the late 90s that might do the trick.