Quinces are one of the few fruits that cannot be eaten raw. Fresh off the tree they will be rock-hard and incredibly tart, unlike their botanic cousins apples and pears. So quinces require a little bit of TLC in order to make them edible. But they are absolutely worth the effort, and actually there are a number of very easy ways to cook them.
Quinces come into season in autumn, though they’re quite easy to source in Australia, they can sometimes be tricky to buy commercially in other countries. If you head to your local farmer’s market in autumn you should be able to find some. They should be golden-yellow and round (like the fast-disappearing sun in autumn!). My parents have a quince tree so I’m very lucky in that regard. We do however get a bit of codling moth in the harvest which is annoying. However, if you also get this pest, don’t despair, just cut around it when you chop the fruit up.
You’ve probably eaten quince jelly / paste or as they call it in Spain, ‘Membrillo’ which is often paired with manchego cheese. This is easy to make and a great way to cook up your quinces. BUT, have you ever tried poached quinces? If not, then I urge you to try this recipe! They have a lovely soft texture (somewhat like a firm cooked apple) and a very unique flavour. I like to eat them for breakfast on porridge or bircher muesli, or in the evening for dessert with coconut yoghurt or ice cream. The spiced syrup is so wonderful!
As the quinces cook they turn a deep ruby colour, which intensifies, as does the flavour, the longer it’s cooked… though don’t let them get too soft.
I like to use an orange in this recipe, but you can also use a lemon. What is important is getting an organic orange or lemon, so that the liquid doesn’t absorb any chemicals from sprayed fruit. I also use demerara sugar as it is less processed (also turbinado sugar is another great raw sugar).
Once cooked they can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a week (or even slightly longer!).
This poached quince recipe is adapted from here.
- 7 cups water
- 1 cup demerara sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 organic orange , quartered
- 1 vanilla bean , split lengthwise, seeds removed
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6-8 large quinces
Mix the water, sugar, honey, orange, vanilla bean, cinnamon and star anise in a large pot and turn it on to medium heat.
While the liquid is heating, quarter, peel, and remove the cores of the quinces. Make sure to remove anything tough and fibrous (be careful with the knife!). Slice the peeled quinces into long pieces.
As you peel and prepare the quinces, slip each one into the simmering liquid. Once they’re all done, cover the pot with a round of baking paper with a walnut-sized hole cut in the centre and place it on top.
Simmer the quince (do not boil) for at least an hour, until the pieces are cooked through. Cooking time will vary, depending on the quinces. They’re done when they are cooked through and soft (don't let them get too soft though!), which you can check by piercing one with the tip of a sharp knife. It’s not unusual for them to take up to 2 hours.
Serve warm, or at room temperature. To store, pour the quinces and their liquid into a storage container and refrigerate for up to one week.