Quirky quinces

By
December 12, 2007

The pickup: I’d been crunching on apples for snacks and slicing crisp pears atop my salads for weeks before quinces — a relative of both apples and pears — caught my eye at a farmers’ market.

I’d only ever tasted quince in membrillo, the classic Spanish paste typically served with Manchego cheese. Membrillo is delicious, but it’s hard to comprehend how that thick pink preserve comes out of such large, hard, odd-shaped, fuzzy fruits. So I bought three quinces and brought them home, determined to make something different.

Quinces are like hard, fuzzy, golden apples.

The results: My choices were limited by the fact that quince is too dry, too tart, and too tough to eat raw. So I turned toward baked dishes. Inspired by an old recipe from Sunset magazine, I decided to substitute quince for half of the apples in my favorite version of apple crisp.

First, the quince and apples had to be peeled, cored, and sliced. This was an easy task with the apples, but the thick-skinned, hard-cored quinces proved more challenging and time-consuming. Fortunately, the fruits emitted a lovely floral perfume when cut that made the task a bit more bearable. When the prep work was finally complete, I filled a shallow baking dish with the quince and apple slices and began working on the crust.

My preferred version of apple crisp is crumbly and thick, and incorporates a secret ingredient: graham crackers. The addition of the crackers creates a lovely golden shell for the fruit beneath, and it pairs perfectly with vanilla ice cream.

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1. by Joanna on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:51 AM PST

Great that you’ve discovered quince - one of the best tastes there is. In Turkish cookery it is often paired with meat. It makes a lovely liqueur, which is useful in cooking as well as being good to drink. And, as you’ve discovered, it’s delicious with apples. I used to spend hours with my grandmother, peeling and coring. These days, I use a food processor, and that makes it quicker. But it’s also true to say that younger fruit straight off the tree is much more tender to the knife. On the other hand, older fruit is much sweeter. Life’s a compromise ;)

2. by Ashley Griffin Gartland on Dec 12, 2007 at 2:42 PM PST

Thanks for all these wonderful tips Joanna. Do you know of any particular dishes involving quince and meat that you’d recommend?

3. by Joanna on Dec 13, 2007 at 1:55 AM PST

Hi Ashley ...
3 of the 4 quince dishes in Claudia Roden’s Arabesque are savoury, only one is sweet. Here’s one I’ve tried, and will make again next quince season:

http://joannasfood.blogspot.com/2007/09/stuffed-quince-with-nothutlu-pilav.html

The others involve poaching the quince first, and then combining with chicken or lamb ... and of course plenty of cinnamon

Hope this helps - I can email recipes to you if you have trouble finding them

Joanna

4. by Ashley Griffin Gartland on Dec 13, 2007 at 7:09 AM PST

Thanks Joanna - it helps!

Ashley

5. by Joey on Dec 21, 2007 at 5:28 PM PST

Hi there, I’m wanting to make an apple pie for Christmas but the recipe requires quince marmalade, which I can’t find anywhere! Can you recommend a substitute? Maybe pear? Damson?

6. by Ashley Griffin Gartland on Dec 21, 2007 at 8:54 PM PST

If you can still find quince in season, perhaps you could make the marmalade? I found these simple recipes that you might use as a guideline: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/quincemarmalade_6897.shtml and http://bakingforbritain.blogspot.com/2006/03/marmalade-part-1.html. If not, have you tried specialty food stores?

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