If You're a Jam Junky
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.
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 cookthey 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 varietiesplants 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.