Cooking with quince

by Sunita on November 6, 2009

The other day, while shopping, my eyes fell on some quince. You know, those fruits with yellow skin and  hard,strongly perfumed flesh, and which, when cut open looks somewhat like a pear. Or is it like an apple?

Somehow, this fruit has always escaped my shopping basket. So, this time, I bought  home, four of these sunny skinned fruits. I didn’t have any idea as what to expect if I cooked with them. A little bit of research was definitely in order. And I did find out quite a few interesting facts along the way, which I want to share with all of you.

The quince is native to warm-temperate southwest Asia in the Caucasus region. The quince tree is native to Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and was introduced to Croatia, Turkey, Serbia, Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria. In Europe, quinces are commonly grown in central and southern areas where the summers are sufficiently hot for the fruit to fully ripen.

It is a small deciduous tree, growing 5–8 m tall and 4–6 m wide, related to apples and pears,  which is bright golden yellow when mature, pear-shaped, 7–12 cm long and 6–9 cm broad.

Cultivation of quince may have preceded apple culture, and many references translated to “apple”, such as the fruit in Song of Solomon, may have been to a quince.Among the ancient Greeks, the quince was a ritual offering at weddings. The Romans also used quinces; the Roman cookbook of Apicius gives recipes for stewing quince with honey, and even combining them, unexpectedly, with leeks.

Most varieties of quince are too hard, astringent and sour to eat raw unless ‘bletted‘ (softened by frost and subsequent decay). They are used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding, or they may be peeled, then roasted, baked or stewed. The flesh of the fruit turns red after a long cooking time. Quince have high pectin content in them.

Recipes for quinces started to appear in the UK in the 17th century. “Quince is a fruit for the patient”, it has been said, and some even call it ” an inconvenience fruit”. Only long, slow cooking of this hard fruit makes it palatable. Cooked, it can be anything from a pale pink to a glorious deep amber.

Quinces have long been used as a herbal medicine as an infusion to treat sore throat, diarthoea and haemorrhage of the bowel. It is effective against inflammation of the mucous membranes, intestines and stomach. They are also used in the cosmetic industry and for medicinal cosmetics.

The fruits ate so fragrant that a single fruit can fill a room with its rich fruity scent; indeed, quinces were often studded with   popular as room deodorisers.

While buying quince, choose ones that are hard (this is comtrary to  instinct when choosing fruit , but a soft quince is on its way out and will be mealy). Don’t worry if the yellow skin looks imperfect because it has brown spots on it: that does not affect the fruit , and that’s how they come. Avoid any that are wrinkled or brown all over.

Store apart from other fruit as the other fruit may absorb the strong perfume from the Quince. If the Quinces you buy have not completely yellowed yet, then they need to ripen. Keep them out of the refrigerator until they do go yellow all over and start to give off a perfumey aroma. When they hit this point, you need to use them right away so that they don’t keep on ripening and go mealy, or refrigerate for up to two more weeks before using.( sources- here, here, here and here)

In warm, temperate and tropical regions, the fruit can become soft, juicy and suitable for eating raw; but in cooler temperate areas like Britain, they do not ripen so far. Here, raw quince fruits are hard, gritty, harsh and astringent, but after a few weeks of storage, the flesh softens to a point where some people find them edible.

I wanted to try to make some jam, but, as my fellow blogger buddies pointed out, four quinces were not enough. But I wanted cook with them so much, that in the end, I decided to settle on a quince and apple crumble. Warm  autumnal fruits cooked with a medley of spices,  topped with oats and seeds, baked and served with a drizzle of cream- yes, I was very much liking  the picture that was forming in my mind. It is said that it is best to keep recipes with quince simple.  So simple it shall be. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present my humble, but oh so delicious quince and apple crumble.

What’s needed-

2 quinces, cored, sliced and cut into small pieces ( about 4C)
6-7 tblsp of honey
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
6-7 cloves
1/4 tsp crushed red chillies ( more or less)
1/3 c of water
2 firm apples, cored, peeled and chopped , a little bigger than the quinces ( about 1 and 1/2 C)

For the topping-

1C jumbo oats
1C mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower and linseed)
3 tblsp of dark brown sugar
4 tblsp of vegetable/sunflower oil

How to-

  1. Put the quince, cinnamon, nutmeg, chillies, cloves, honey and water in a wide, thick bottomed pan. Stir and place over low heat. Cook covered for about 10 minutes, stirring now and then, till the fruit can easily be cut with a spoon.
  2. Add the apple, stir and cook for another 10-12 minutes or till the apples soften a little.
  3. Increase the heat and stir till most of the moisture has evaporated ( do not dry it out completely).
  4. Transfer and spread this mixture to a baking dish ( 5 and 1/2 inches by 7 and 1/2 inches). Discard the cloves.
  5. Pre heat the oven at 180 deg C.
  6. Mix together all the ingredients for the topping and spread over the quince- apple mixture. Press the top lightly.
  7. Place the dish in the centre of the pre heated oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes or till the top is nicely browned and the fruit is hot and bubbly. If the top browns too quickly, cover the dish lightly with a piece of foil.

Our after dinner dessert of a spicy quince and apple crumble went down very well with all four of us . I served it warm with a drizzling of  cream.

The fruits were cooked to perfection; just soft and yet held their shape and the oats and seeds added the crunch.

If you do not want to use seeds, add some chopped nuts instead.

The kitchen was filled with the aromas emanating from the crumble as the fruits bubbled away to glory. And yes, my quinces experienced the characteristic change of colour. After the full cooking and baking time, they turned into this lovely shade of pink.  A perfumed dessert? Oh yes!

It’s official! I love quince. Now , let’s see, what I can make with the other two quinces. Hmm.

Have a great weekend everyone !

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rosa November 6, 2009 at 5:30 am

That crumble looks fantastic! I love quinces… They are so versatile!

Cheers,

Rosa

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2 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Thanks Rosa and they are so fragrant too, aren’t they?

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3 Nirmala November 6, 2009 at 5:57 am

Oh lovely Sunita! There are quinces everywhere in the blogoshpere. I read about a lovely brinjal paired curry in madteaparty. Why should u try something savory with this ? This crumble looks lovely. I have some melon and cucumber seeds lying around. But its hard to find quince here. But I can make an apple crumble instead ;)

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4 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Thanks Nirmala. Check this post- http://sunitabhuyan.com/?p=322

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5 Sonu November 6, 2009 at 7:19 am

Nice info about quince. Crumble look so beautiful!

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6 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Thanks Sonu :-)

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7 Sarah, Maison Cupcake November 6, 2009 at 7:40 am

Such a well researched blog post, really useful information as lots of people don’t know what they’re doing with quinces – myself included. I have been put off by their gritty hardness, expecting them to be juicy but as you say they’re more like apples. They’re not easy to find in the UK, probably only stocked by Waitrose amongst the main supermarkets but my local Turkish store tends to have them in the autumn so I’ve no excuse not to try something out myself.

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8 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Thanks Sarah, do give it try :-)

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9 Colloquial Cook November 6, 2009 at 7:50 am

Ohh, oats quinces and seeds – it would make for perfect breakfast food in my book :)

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10 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Exactly Claire. I had the leftovers for breakfast the very next day.

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11 The Cooking Ninja November 6, 2009 at 8:06 am

yum yum … I’m not a big fan of quince but they are so fragrant that you simply want to take a bite of it. My PIL do jams, fruit pate, cook them with some meats, make pie like you did, etc. Here in France, they are bountiful and my PIL often get them FOC. :) Some have too much from their garden, will just put them in a wheelbarrow and leave it right outside their gate with a card ‘Feel Free To Take as much as you need. It’s FOC.’ for passerby and cars. :)

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12 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Thanks Pam. I haven’t seen them around too much here, but I think I love the fruit now :-)

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13 Jan November 6, 2009 at 10:46 am

Oooh now this crumble looks good! I’m loving the chillies you’ve added – a fantastic idea – yum!

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14 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Thank you Jan :-)

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15 Jeanne November 6, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Oh, Sunita – I think I’m in love! I also always pass the quinces by as I’m not sure what to do with them (apparently they also work well in clafoutis but I’ve never tried). I love the spices in this, and the seeds in the topping. Bookmarked!!

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16 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Jeanne, I had no idea what to do with them too, so decided to do a crumble just to get me started. Loved the colour that it changed into. You must try the fruit sometime :-)

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17 Bong Mom November 6, 2009 at 1:38 pm

I have not tried quince, saw it at Mad Tea Party other day. Crumbles are easy & delish, yours looks great

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18 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Thanks Sandeepa, this is my first time with quince too.

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19 Kashmira November 6, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Sunita, just what I was looking for! We have a quince tree in our yard. And had NO clue what to do with the dozen or so fruit that we had. Will try this out :)

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20 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 2:02 pm

A quince tree in your yard! I’m so jealous :-) On a serious note, do give this recipe a try :-)

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21 Barbara Bakes November 6, 2009 at 10:39 pm

What a fabulous fall dessert! Your photographs are wonderful!

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22 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Thank you Barbara :-)

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23 Sudeshna November 7, 2009 at 5:03 am

I have never seen quince, so don’t know much about the taste :) . But the pics are making me drool for the crumble. Will try this out with only apples. I hope that gets almost the same taste.

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24 Sunita November 7, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Of course you can try with apple, you can check this version too- http://sunitabhuyan.com/?p=322

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25 farida November 9, 2009 at 1:48 am

Sunita, haven’t been to your blog for a long time. Sorry for being such a bad blogger friend:) Just came to check and glad I did. Quince happens to be my second favorite fruit after pomegranate. I tend to favor unconventional fruits like this, but not my fault – they are as common in Azerbaijan as apples:) Quince that sells here in California does not come close to that sold in AZerbaijan. Azerbaijani quince is juicier, is less acidic and delicious to enjoy just as. But something is better than nothing, so I am not complaining:) I love your recipe and saving it to make when I buy quince from a local Middle Eastern market (that’s the only place that sells the fruit). Thank you, Sunita!

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26 mary October 12, 2010 at 5:17 pm

We recently moved into a house that has a quince tree loaded with them and the ground covered with them and I had no idea what how to cook or even what to do with them ! Thank you for the recipe will now have the family living off them !

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