quince quince
quince quince

apple and pear's long lost cousin
by Merrill Maiano

What's in a Quince?
Once revered as a symbol of love, marriage and fertility, the quince is reputedly the "Golden Apple" that Paris gave to Aphrodite. Although quinces enjoy considerable use in Europe, they go relatively unappreciated here in America. Perhaps, they fell out of popularity in favor of fruit that could be eaten out of hand. Or, maybe they were forgotten as people moved farther and farther away from the kitchen. They're generally unappetizing raw—besides being tougher than a brand-new tennis ball, they're also astringent and tart. more >>

<< quince preserve
José de Meirelles, Les Halles—New York, NY
<< rack of venison served on quince puree with quince sauce
Todd and Ellen Gray, Equinox—Washington, DC

They look and smell something like a cross between an apple and a pear, which is no surprise, because they are all, in fact, related. Clothed in yellow skin when ripe, the flesh is creamy white. But, unlike their cousins, quinces have a particularly intense floral aroma; a heady combination of the flower and the fruit all at once. When cooked, they fill the entire kitchen with their scent.

If You're a Jam Junky
You can use quinces in baking and savory cooking just like apples and pears. In older recipes, a combination of quince and apple or quince and pear, are often found in pies and stuffings. Most often, however, you'll see recipes for quince jams, jellies and preserves. They have one of the highest levels of natural pectin amongst fruit, and recipes using them rarely require any of the extra store-bought stuff. You will also find that recipes for quince jelly call for more than two hours cooking time. It's not that quinces actually take two hours to cook—they cook at about the same rate and temperature as an apple. Unlike apples, quinces undergo a remarkable color transformation when exposed to heat and sugar over a long period of time. The slow progression from white to brown, pale pink to a deep rose and finally, to red, will have you standing over the stove in eager anticipation. The longer the fruit cooks, the redder it becomes. And, if you've ever seen the vibrant ruby red of a good quince jelly or tasted a single seductive bite, you know just how much of a gustatory epiphany the experience can be.

A Rare Find

It's not uncommon to find quinces in gourmet grocery stores, where you will most likely pay more than you'd care to admit. On the other hand, there may be more quinces than you know what to do with, right in your own backyard. There are several varieties—plants range in size from ornamental bushes to forty-foot tall trees. In both cases, they produce delicate pink and white flowers in spring and bear yellow fruit in the fall. You'll find them pretty much anywhere apples will grow. Under-ripe, they're green, covered in a peach-like fuzz, and have a less pronounced smell. If you plan to make some of the dazzling red jelly or preserves, feel free to pick fruits that are still somewhat green, as the younger ones have higher levels of pectin in them. The fuzz washes away easily under cool water. Once they've ripened, enjoy them for their lovely smell and color, and use them in your own savory and sweet creations.