quince – essential eating

December 6th, 2011 § 8

“It’s like a pear that has spent the night making love to a rose,” is how Rob described the enigmatic aroma of quince. We brought six quinces home from the market two weeks ago. Like some magic fruit of legend, as they lay ripening on the counter, they slowly started to drive us quince crazy.


Quince and vanilla with five spice: fennel, cloves, Szechuan pepper, star anise, cinnamon as well as licorice root.

They are a mysterious, ambiguous yellow-green. The fragrance is sweet and floral, but with a hint of animal musk. And their shape is suggestive, evoking the voluptuousness of Rubens, or the bordello paintings of Degas. Luxuriant. Tempting. Forbidden.



It all lends credence to the hypothesis that the apple of Eden would likely have been quince. It invites you to take a greedy mouthful, but you’ll be punished if you do: the raw flesh is strongly astringent, and requires patient cooking to yield the flavour suggested by its perfume. As you simmer it, the fruit slowly flushes with colour and sweetness, and softens to a texture that’s somewhere between poached pear and raw scallop. The transformation is dramatic.


Jelly is one of the many uses for quince, here infused with star anise.


The Quintessential - a new classic.

Inspired by David Lebovitz’s recipe, we poached some quinces with some home-made Chinese five-spice, to which we also added licorice root. The resulting spiced fruit was amazing with seared duck breast, but we’ve eaten quite a lot on its own, with our hands. We also mixed some of the poaching syrup with a little white rum and a splash of tonic to make a cocktail that tasted like the nectar of a tropical flower. A teaspoonful in a flute of sparkling wine is also, in a word, lush. Martha Stewart’s quince jelly with star anise – our first ever jelly (not so gel-y) – was a sensational foil for chicken liver mousse. We’ll surely be bringing home more before the season’s through, even if it’s just to look at and smell them.

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§ 8 Responses to “quince – essential eating”

  • LOVE. The scallop analogy is so strangely apt. You’ve really done justice to this gorgeous fruit.

  • Jane says:

    Beautiful pictures. I distilled some quince juice this year and didn’t know what to do with it. A quince-white rum cocktail sounds devine! Been exploring the recipes in Simply Quince by Barbara Ghazarian. Tons of yummy recipes in that tome.

  • Victor says:

    Mmm, I love quince too. I’ve never spiced them up; I usually just poach them, with varying amounts of lemon (juice and zest). I love using the extra poaching liquid for drinks, or you can also boil it down to jelly.

    I’ll have to see if I still have one last small jar of quince-pomegranate jelly, from a batch I made a few years ago; if so, it’s got your name on it.

    Epicurious has a lovely recipe for a poundcake with chunks of poached quince. Fabulous, though a little sweet, and it seemed overly complicated or that it could be streamlined a bit. (Or maybe it is because it took longer than I’d expected when I made it, that I think of it as a bit troublesome!)

    How can you talk quince without mentioning quince paste! Its texture lends it to various names: in French, quince paste (pâte de going); in German, quince bread (Quittenbrot) or cheese (Quittenkäs); in Hungarian, quince cheese (birsalmasajt); in Portuguese, marmelade (marmelada); in Spanish, sweet of quince (dulce de membrillo). Essentially you make applesauce, but from quince, and sweeten it, and cook it till it’s a thick paste. Serve slices with cheese; manchego is the classic pairing. You can easily buy it in your neighbourhood (e.g., in packages or by the gram from the cheese counter, at La Vieille Europe), but the commercial stuff usually has preservatives that I find disagreeable. (I may be oversensitive to the flavour of preservatives – other people seem to be able to drink commercial iced tea and enjoy it, for example.)

    My French colleague says her mom would put a quince in with a larger quantity of apples to perfume the batch of applesauce – I have been meaning to try this, and have two quince on my counter that I bought a few weeks ago.

  • Rob says:

    Hey Victor,

    You are a fountain of knowledge as usual. I was thinking of making quince paste with the left-over solids from the jelly making, but I was rather exhausted from the jelly-making/poaching/cocktail making/photographing/etc./etc.

    But yes, of course, we should have mentioned it. We bought some really great manchego that we ended up eating with the jelly instead of the paste. There is a great entry on quince paste over at our fave blog Glutton For Life.

    We might have to hire you as the researcher for all future blog entries. :-)

  • Victor says:

    Rob, do you still have the quince solids? They should keep a few days, after poaching, and should still make good paste if you still want to do so, and if you don’t just eat them as-is or use them in some other way, of course. :-) I bought an outrageously nice food mill a few weeks ago that is begging to squince some quince, but my two quince might yet go into something like that lamb tagine on Glutton for Life. I hadn’t known about that blog and now you’ve given me for food porn for thought. Where did you buy your quince, by the way? I haven’t seen them in markets for several few weeks, and actually I bought them at Metro.

  • David says:

    Victor, it’s so great to hear your virtual voice again. I do love quince paste, but we were too lazy to save the quince solids and figure out where we’ve hidden the food mill. We got our quinces chez Nino and chez Louis at the Jean-Talon Market. I think they must still have some, there were lots.

  • Jon says:

    Hello boys,
    Just wanted to say how delicious your quince was. I opened the jar you left at Mom and Dad’s and sampled it… generously. How luscious and floral. When we ran out of cranberry sauce prematurely, I used the quince as a side to leftover turkey breast. I highly recommend it.

  • David says:

    Glad you got a taste of these!