The fruit of the quince tree has an interesting history and place in modern cooking. Most varieties of quince are too hard, astringent and sour to eat raw. The organic quince available for sale need to be cooked before eating. They are used to make jam or paste, or they may be roasted, baked or stewed. The fruit turns to a beautiful pinky red colour when cooked and while they are delicious as a dessert, they are also versatile as an accompaniament to meats and savoury dishes.
For those that have attempted to eat quinces raw, the quince probably immediately became a disliked fruit...quinces are a fruit essentially for cooking. This means stewing, baking, pan frying, preserving, jams, boiling and the popular quince paste. Quinces grow on a spectacular tree that blossoms scarlet red flowers in Spring. They are an oblong shape, similar to a packnam pear, with a beautiful pale yellow colouring. When picked they are covered with what seems like a sticky down. This can be washed off easy enough, but a greasiness on the skin can remain after washing, so be careful when peeling the skin off.
Quinces can take a long time to cook, and some people even use their pressure cooker to do the job. They have a unique, perfumed flavour, though, that only comes out when it is cooked. The flesh of quinces changes colour while cooking. This can either be a lovely soft yellow, or pink, or a ruby red.
To stew quince, wash the fruit, and quarter, removing the core with a sharp knife. The fuzzy skin may be removed, by peeling, although this is quite fiddly and not essential. Place the fruit into a heavy bottomed pot, and simmer with a little water til the fruit softens and changes to a pink colour. You will need to add more water as the fruit cooks to prevent it from sticking. Add a little sugar only when the fruit is soft to preserve the delicate flavour.
There is a fascinating website dedicated to historical foods, and the quince makes an interesting subject, with several old recipes listed; www.historicfood.com
Click here to view our Old Fashioned Baked Quince recipe.