Quince is believed to predate the apple. Many references to fruit in ancient texts, such as the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, were probably referring to the quince. Greek mythology associates the quince with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and many believe that the golden apple given to her by Paris was a quince. The Greek word for quince is kythoni (or kydoni). It's written κυδώνι and pronounced kee-THOH-nee. Ancient Greeks associated the quince with fertility, and it played an important role in wedding celebrations. Quince is nearly inedible raw but becomes sweet and luscious when cooked. It's native to western Asia and Turkey and has become especially popular in Spain, France, and Portugal where it is enjoyed in jelly and jam form.
What Is Quince?
The modern-day quince is shaped like a hybrid of an apple and pear, and similar in size. The average quince weighs about 4 ounces, has a rich yellow exterior, and gives off a strong, pleasant fragrance. It's hard, acidic, and astringent before cooking, but it turns red, takes on a whole different flavor, and tastes divine when cooked. Aluminum cookware will deliver the deepest red color in cooked quince. Quinces grow on trees and are ripe and ready for eating in late autumn.
To eat it, you must always remove the fruit's peel and core before cooking. Then it can be roasted, stewed, pureed, poached, baked, made into jelly, or grilled. Fresh quince can be hard to find and the price may vary.
How to Cook With Quince
Quinces are used to make marmalade and jam, spoon sweets, and jellies. The fruit has a lot of pectin, a naturally occurring starch. Quinces also make great additions to apple pies, and they're delicious when cooked with meats. There are some well-known and well-loved pork dishes in Greece made with quince, and it's also good with proteins such as lamb, turkey, and duck. Quinces can be baked, just like apples, for a sweet and simple dessert.
One of the easiest ways to cook with quince is to poach it. You'll get to enjoy the sweet fruit and the poaching liquid, too, as a result of this method. Peel and slice the quince into quarters. Create a poaching liquid with water, honey, sugar, and any spices and then simmer the quince for 30 to 40 minutes. Strain and use the fruit right away and save the syrup, or save them together and use the poached quince at a later date.
What Does It Taste Like?
Raw quince is extremely astringent. Beyond its taste, quince is hard to eat. The rind is tough and knobby and fuzzier than a peach. The raw flesh is tough and tastes quite tart. Once cooked, the fruit becomes softer and sweeter. A ripe quince has a strong aroma, almost like a tropical fruit or a strong, vanilla-based scent.
Since it is not appetizing raw, quince must be cooked to be enjoyed. Most recipes are sweet treats that emphasize the quince's natural sweetness once it is cooked.
Where to Buy Quince
Quinces naturally grow on small trees in Turkey and Asia, and they're ripe in the fall. Some farms will grow quinces, but because the fruit is not very popular, they can be hard to find. Check local apple farms to see if they also grow quinces. Fresh quince fruit can be shipped from farms in the fall, but they are often quite expensive. A 5-pound box of fresh quinces can be bought online for about $40. A box this size will contain about 10 to 12 fruits. For a bulk shipment, a 10-pound box contains 20 to 24 fruits. If you find fresh quinces, pick a fruit that feels heavy for its size and is free of blemishes. Quince paste is more common and can be found at international stores, specialty markets, or cheese shops. Quince paste, jam, and jelly can also be found online.
Quince trees can be grown as a backyard tree. If you want the fruit, grow a quince tree cultivar with fruit and not just the flowering type, which won't produce edible fruit. The trees can grow in USDA Zones 5 to 9 and need fertile soil. It's best to grow at least two trees for cross-pollination. If you see a quince tree, pick the largest fruit that is blemish-free. Snip the fruit from the tree with a sharp pair of garden shears.
Fresh quince can be stored on the countertop. Once it gives off a heady, fruity aroma, it's best to cook it soon before it rots. Stewed quince can be stored in its juices in the refrigerator for a week or two or frozen for months. Quince paste, jam, and jelly are shelf-stable when unopened. Once opened, store in the refrigerator.