Quince is an interesting fruit, no really that’s not just a trope. It is native to south-west Asia, Turkey and Iran to be more specific and is found in many middle eastern recipes both sweet and savory. It does grow in the United States, but isn’t a well know fruit and I have found many people who have looked at me quizzically when I’ve mentioned it. Unless they’re die hard cheese lovers, then they are familiar with the sticky red cube that often accompanies a cheese plate.
Recently a friend got involved in helping to steward an old orchard near where we both live and to my surprise the orchard includes several quince trees. When it came time to harvest the fruit she thoughtfully emailed me and asked would I like some? Of course I talked to Chef Traci about it and we decided to buy fifty pounds of fruit to cook into marmalade and can for the holidays. What I got was a serious education in quince, which is right up my alley.
The fruit itself is covered in a sticky fuzz, it is how you know the fruit is ready to pick. When the fuzz rubs off easily, it’s ready! Nature is so amazing in it’s simplicity sometimes. Once it’s picked you wash off the fuzz, peel the fruit, and clean out the inside with a melon baller and a sharp knife. Quince is surprisingly hard so be careful when you cut it, a very sharp knife is important. The flesh is very pale, but it oxidizes quickly. You can put the fruit in acidulated water (1 quart of cold water mixed with the juice of on lemon should do it). It won’t keep it completely from turning brown on the outside, but it slows it down. In my experience I found it actually didn’t matter that much if the fruit oxidized, the end result was the same beautiful color.
Once your fruit is ready you cook it in simple syrup (a dilute syrup, roughly a 3:1 ratio in the recipe we used) until it turns that signature red. We grated ours to make marmalade, but you can poach the halves, similar to a pear and serve in syrup. Honey & Co. cooks them in large slices with meatballs. I read a recipe where they were used in a candied bacon recipe. There are myriad possibilities with this fruit. The season is over for this year in our area, but I’m already looking forward to the 2017 harvest.
3/4 c sugar
3 c water
1 c grated quince (peeled and cored)
Optional aromatics: vanilla bean, cardamom pods, juniper berries, use your imagination
1) Bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan
2)Add quince and optional aromatics (taste after 1 hour, you may opt to remove aromatics at this point)
3) Stir occasionally for up to 2 hours (possibly longer) or until most of the liquid has evaporated and quince is very soft
4) Remove aromatics, if you haven’t already done so
5) Cool, place in a clean jar and store in the refrigerator for up to a month
Note: Serve with toast (challah is an amazing match), with cheese, or just eat it straight out of the jar. I recommend you share it with someone you love