Fruit

Quince: The Fall Fruit That Trumps Apples and Pears

November  3, 2015

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.

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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):

There's tarte tatin and membrillo, of course...

  

...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

    

  

  • 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!

12 Comments

Domenico G. November 4, 2015
Quenepas.... Alot of street vendors in NYC carry them and most don't know they are a cousin of the lychee....
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. November 4, 2015
WOW! Yes! Also, I've never tried those! What are they like?
 
Domenico G. November 6, 2015
They are very similar to rambutan or lychee. Sweet with almost a white grape like flavor. The vendor in 68th and hunter college almost always has them they are small round and greeen and still on the branch when sold
 
Brenda November 4, 2015
Use membrillo and blend with vinegar and olive oil for a wonderful salad dressing!
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. November 4, 2015
I have to try that!
 
JayCate November 4, 2015
Quince in Middle Eastern cooking can be also paired with chestnuts, or with veal/beef.
 
mrslarkin November 3, 2015
They smell soooo good!!! I am the weird lady in the store who smells all the fruit, and I can be overly zealous with the quince.
 
ChefJune November 3, 2015
I love quince. My favorite way to prepare/eat them is the first way I ever had one - cut in half, roasted and served warm with freshly made vanilla bean ice cream. That was back in '97 at the sweet bistrot Armand Assaud in St. Remy de Provence. They are SOOOO good that way.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. November 3, 2015
Stomach is rumbling!!!!
 
AntoniaJames November 3, 2015
Fun fact: One species of camellia, camellia japonica (grown everywhere in this zip code), is also known as Japanese quince or flowering quince. The blossoms of some kinds of camellia japonicas do resemble the blossoms of the quince fruit tree. <br /><br />They are all beautiful. ;o)
 
mrslarkin November 3, 2015
My neighbor across the street has a flowering quince bush/tree in their front yard. The blooms are gorgeous! And some years, fruit sprouts (but never matures.)
 
Greenstuff November 3, 2015
I can't think of other Q fruits, but when my daughter was small, we did once have a Quebec supper: Quail, sQuash, and Quince.