Autumn is here and so is the Quince. With the look of a monstrous mutant pear that has been consigned to a dusty corner, the quince is not a fruit to draw the eye. But its distinctive perfume, particularly late in its season, is intriguing. Related to apples and pears, there is a hint of both in its fragrance, but the quince is also related to the rose so there is something floral, and there are guava and pineapple notes too.
Around a quarter of the world’s crop comes from Turkey but it is also grown in China, Iran, South America and Europe. They grow in the UK but conditions are not ideal so they aren’t cultivated here on any great scale. You are more likely to find them growing in a domestic garden in the UK but we buy them when we can. As with the Seville orange, never try to eat a raw quince. The raw flesh is hard, dry and astringent. It oxidises quickly but you can pop the pieces into acidulated water as you work to stop the browning if you like. Long, slow cooking turns it into a rosy-amber delight, though there are a few varieties that stubbornly refuse to colour deeply.
Quince is high in pectin so is perfect for jams, jellies or pastes. Quince pastes are made in many countries – known as Membrillo in Spain, Cotognata in Italy, Cotignac in France and Quince Cheese in the UK – and are often served with cheese. The fruit is perfect for poaching or for adding to long cooked meat dishes as, sliced, it holds its shape well. Quince is often found in North African meat Tagines.
To prepare Quince, rub off any natural fuzz and wash the fruits. For making jams, jellies and pastes, there is no need to peel and core the fruits but for poaching or adding to meat dishes, remove the core – to peel or not to peel is up to you. The fruits are so aromatic that a simple sugar syrup is all you need to poach the sliced fruits for a desert. They will turn a deep amber-red and yield easily to the tip of a knife when cooked through.
Last week’s NEWS gave a recipe for Poached Quince , click here