A weirdly big and lumpy apple? Nope. Quince is its own fruit and trying to use it exactly how you'd use anything else—even the apples and pears it resembles—will get you nowhere fast. They are too hard, too tart, too acidic, too sour, and too generally unpleasant in taste and texture to eat raw. Sufficient cooking, however, softens them and brings out the floral aroma they hold deep inside along with a lovely sweetness that balances out their sour edge.
Another thing quince has going for it is lots of natural pectins, the compounds in some fruits that thicken up jams and jellies. You will notice plenty of recipes for quince preserves because of this, and they can be added to other jams and jellies to help thicken them up naturally.
How to Choose Quince
A soft quince is a rotting quince, so go ahead and buy rock-hard fruits. It seems wrong, for those used to picking out the perfectly ripened peach or juicy citrus fruit, to actively choose a fruit that feels so far from ripe, but such is the quirky way of the quince. While they can be hard, they shouldn't be green or under-ripe. Look for yellow quince that feel heavy for their size and feel firm, with no soft spots or bruising.
How to Store Quince
It's fine to leave quince out on the counter for a few days. Or wrap them loosely in plastic and pop them in the fridge for storing up to several weeks.
How to Prepare Quince
Lots of recipes will tell you that you have to peel quince. You certainly can peel quince, if you like, but if the skins are smooth, clean, and thin, you can leave them on for plenty of dishes.
Quince start off so hard that when they're being used in dishes with other fruits, they are often pre-cooked to soften them first. If you want to try adding a portion of quince to your favorite apple pie or pear cake recipe, poach the quince first, then add them in with the other raw fruit. See How to Poach Quince for specifics.
How to Cook Quince
As mentioned several times already, quince need to be cooked! Classically quince is often cooked quite a lot, being cooked down into chutneys, jams, and marmalades where its naturally high pectin helps it firm up quickly and easily:
Know that if you make membrillo or other quince preserves, they are particularly and incredibly delicious when served with cheese. Strange but true!
Tempting Quince Dessert Recipes
There are other ways to bake with quince beyond the classic jellies and jams. Try these other sweet and tempting ways with quince:
Remember, as described above, you can replace an apple or pear or two in many classic apple and pear desserts (including this old-fashioned apple pie) with a quince to add a bright note and create a more complex dessert - just remember to poach the quince first!
How to Use Quince in Savory Dishes
The tart backbone of quince also works wonders when stewed with meats and other savory preparations, such as this Moroccan tagine with quince.
Recipes tend to mainly stew quince in the pot with the meat, which is a great technique since the sourness of quince can help tenderize tough cuts of meat, as well as help balance out the rich flavor of stewed dishes. Quince can also, however, be lovely simply poached and served alongside roasted meats.