To me, the word "quince" has always been just that: a word. I'd think about it when I found myself with a "q" and a "u" in Bananagrams, but it was not tangible. I did not expect to encounter a quince—let alone consume one!—in the wild.
Fast forward to last week, when we received three quince (or is it quinces?) in our CSA from Local Roots. I was working from home and terrified that they'd be snatched up and devoured whole before I got the chance to try one.
"Save me one!" I implored another editor.
I hadn't known much about them and assumed they could be chomped into like apples. While former Food52 editor Nozlee says that quince can be eaten raw (you just have to wait until they reach a point of ripeness far beyond your normal comfort zone), most people recommend cooking them to soften their tartness and withdraw their sugars.
So, I resisted biting into one of the knobby, Lemon Head-esque fruits and instead looked for something easy I could do to make them palatable. I turned to Martha Stewart, as one does, and her simple recipe for Quince Butter, which, to my dismay, contains no butter at all. Instead, you peel the quince, remove their seeds, cut them into eighths, and simmer them with water and just a tiny bit of sugar (for 1 pound quince, I used only 3 tablespoons) over medium heat until soft (about 20 minutes) and then over low heat for an additional 1 1/2 hours.
I found the process nerve-wracking—my quince only took about 1 hour total to cook and I had to keep adding water in small increments in order to prevent them from burning—but in the end, I was left with something jammy that resembled applesauce.
And when I tasted it, I was shocked by how three ingredients had produced such a strangely addictive and alluring flavor. The quince tasted like the best sweet-tart apple, with a weird floral softness I associate with pears and, strangely, a ton of bright citrusy acidity.
This was my new favorite thing—and that's coming from someone who averages three apples per day.
With quince on my mind, I've been thinking of other ways I can put the fruit to good use (besides in my Scrabble games):
...but there are also lots of places where quince might replace apples, pears, and other fruits in an update on the original:
- Cube and roast quince, then add them to this pie-cake hybrid instead of (or in addition to?!) the butternut squash.
- Mash roasted quince into a sauce, then use them in place of pear sauce (which replaced applesauce!) in this glazed bundt cake.
- Poach quince in red wine (or you could even try white).
- Put them in a hot oven with brussels sprouts. Once caramelized, add chopped toasted nuts and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
- Cook quince on the stove, then blend them into a savory soup with vegetable broth, potatoes, thyme, and sage.
- Might you make baked quince instead of baked apples and fill them with an oaty crumble with lots of candied ginger and dried figs?
- Sauté quince slices in butter and maple syrup and drape them over waffles, a Dutch baby, or pancakes.
- Cut them into thin rounds with a mandoline and create dramatic quince wisps on a tarte flambée.
Is there another fruit that starts with "q" that I'm missing? Tell me in the comments below!