Ingredients

Quince

Other Names: Golden apple, marmelo (Portugal).

General Description: The quince (Cydonia oblonga) is a round or pear-shaped, lumpy fruit with yellow skin, sometimes covered with fuzz, that must be cooked before eating. The quince is one of the earliest-known fruits: Many believe that Eve’s forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was a quince. In Greek legend, Helen of Troy convinced Paris to award a quince to Aphrodite as the prize in a beauty contest, thus starting the Trojan War.

Although the quince has been cultivated for thousands of years, it has largely retained the character of a wild fruit. The fruit’s unique fragrance, hinting of pineapple, guava, and pear, can easily perfume a room. Quinces weigh 1/2 to 1 pound, are asymmetrical and bright yellow, and look like short-necked pears. A characteristic feltlike coating wipes off easily, revealing thin waxy skin that emanates a sweet, fresh fragrance when rubbed. The hard, dry flesh of the quince turns light pink to rose red and softer and sweeter once cooked (with sugar).

Quince preserves are the ancestors of both jam and marmalade. The word “marmalade,” in fact, comes from the Portuguese name for quince preserves. Quince is used for baking and preserves because of its subtle flavor and high level of pectin.

The most common variety is the pineapple quince, which resembles a large, smooth, knobby pear with golden yellow skin, white flesh, and a pineapple aroma. The perfumed quince is oval with tapered ends, smooth yellow skin, and white flesh. The champion quince is a very fuzzy, pear-shaped, delicately flavored late-season quince. The rare Portugal quince is giant, bulbous, and football-shaped with a deep, rich flavor.

Season: Pineapple quinces are available August to November from California; perfumed quinces are available from October to February from California.

Purchase: Choose quinces that are large and firm. Although quinces bruise easily, marks on the skin do not affect quality. Once ripe, the fruit will turn from green to yellow but will still be firm.

Avoid: Steer clear of soft, shriveled, or overly bruised fruit.

Storage: Quinces may be stored at room temperature, but will deteriorate after 1 week. Refrigerate quinces for several weeks, wrapped well in paper towels to avoid bruising.

Preparation: Note: Quince must be cooked before eating, either by baking, poaching, roasting, sautéing, or stewing.

  1. Lightly wash the fruit. Smaller perfumed quinces tend to have fuzz on the skin that rubs off when washed.
  2. Peel, using a vegetable peeler or knife.
  3. To core, first halve lengthwise, then scoop out the large seed cavity using a melon baller.
  4. Place peeled quince in water with lemon juice until ready to cook.

Serving Suggestions: Poach peeled quince in flavored simple syrup. Use quince in jam or marmalade. Add quince to meat stew. Roast quince with poultry. Add quince to apple pie to add fragrant, spicy flavor and extra body (because of the pectin).

Flavor Affinities: Bay leaf, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, honey, nutmeg, vanilla.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com