Quirky Yet Queenly Quince

Buying and Using Quince

Quince. Photo © Molly Watson

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.

Another thing quince has going for it is lots of natural pectin, the compound in some fruits that thicken up jams and jellies.

How to Choose Quince

A soft quince is a rotting quince, so go ahead and buy rock-hard fruits. (It seems wrong, I know, when you're used to picking out the perfectly ripened peach or juicy citrus fruit.) 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 with a quince to add a bright note and create a more complex dessert - just be sure 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. Here are a few recipes to get started:

These recipes 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 and the sourness helps balance out the rich flavor of stewed dishes. Quince can also, however, be lovely simply poached and served alongside roasted meats.