A Food & Travel Blog

Seasonal Secrets – quinces

10/04/2012 | By

Our annual competition with the birds for the fruit in our orchard saw us lose big time this year.  Once again every singe apple was stripped from the trees whilst still green – we never had a prayer of getting any.  We have a couple of ancient peach trees, plus an almost moribund apricot and very strict vigilance paid off in a tiny way with 2 peaches and 3 apricots being our score there.  Mind you, they were worth it – the apricots were like nectar from the gods.  The  utterly reliable plum tree gave us plenty to share with the birds, as have the fig trees (see more about them next week) and the quinces.

I have been somewhat “challenged” by quinces in the past and suffer from vivid flashbacks to an afternoon spent at my aunts kitchen table, sitting in front of a bowl of, grainy, bitty, stewed quinces, under pain of death should I move before they were consumed.  This clearly damaged my developing young psyche to the point that my quince curiosity stopped at quince paste or quince jelly.

Quince trees are native to the Caucasus region of South-west Asia and why anybody ever became curious enough about them to actually consider eating them is quite a mystery to me.   They are related to apples and it is thought that the many scriptural and mythological references to golden apples were, in fact, references to the quince.  Quinces were considered sacred to Aphrodite and used as a ritual wedding gift by the ancient Greeks, were used in cooking in ancient Rome,  have been lauded in poetry and are noted for their delicate rose-like scent.   However, the fruit is too hard and too sour to eat raw unless they have become “bletted” (splendid word meaning to become soft with decay – must pop it into the conversation more often)  and they really require a long, slow cook to bring out their best.

The sight of the quince tree boughs bending to the ground under the weight of the fruit eventually stirred some incipient feelings of guilt in my bosom.  All of my foodie friends fall over themselves to get to my quinces at this time of the year and some become a little misty about them in their poached and baked forms.  My friend Lizzy from Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things recently inspired me with her quince post and then I happened upon this deliciously spiced version from Ganga’s A Life (Time) of Cooking.  It seemed to me that this is a fruit that would lend itself particularly well to the charms of the slow-cooker so, with a nod to the two afore-mentioned blogs, I headed off down my own road to Damascus and my quince epiphany.

The following recipe for poaching in the slow-cooker results in a deliciously fragrant, slightly spiced and not too sweet fruit.  It was divine with custard, but would also freeze well for later use in tagines or casseroles.  However, for a sublime quince experience which will just about make you weep with joy, I’d suggest following the extra steps and baking them after poaching.  I think this might just have changed my life.

Slow-cooker Poached Quinces
 
Fragrant, slightly spiced poached quinces. For a life changing experience see the notes re baking them.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 750 mls water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup port
  • 4 quinces, peeled, quartered & cored
  • 1 small lemon, washed, thick sliced
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled, sliced into chunks
Instructions
  1. Place sugar and water into pot over medium heat and stir until sugar has completely dissolved. Add port and heat. Pour into slow-cooker.
  2. Place fruit pieces into syrup immediately after peeling or they will discolour.
  3. Add lemon, ginger, spices.
  4. Split vanilla pod, scrape seeds into syrup and add whole pod.
  5. Place lid on and cook on high for 1 hour.
  6. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 6-7 hours.
  7. Cool the fruit in the syrup - this will help it take up more colour.
  8. Remove fruit from syrup and set aside.
  9. Strain syrup and pour into pan over medium heat.
  10. Bring to boil, then continue to cook until syrup reduced by half.
  11. Cool, then pour over fruit.
  12. It will keep in this syrup for well over a week in the fridge. Serve with custard, cream or masarpone.
Notes
To take this fragrant, luscious dish and turn it into something absolutely gob-smacking try this. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking pan with baking paper and place fruit in a single layer. Pour over ½ cup of the syrup. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup. I actually used cumquat syrup and was mightily pleased. Bake for 40 minutes or until edges begin to caramelise. Serve as above, then weep with joy.

 

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Comments

  1. bobby
    10/04/2012

    I have fond memories of quinces, quite a few years ago I was making a few quince products and so I know how beautiful and fragrant they can be. Love your suggestion of finishing them off by slightly caramelizing them. Nice touch.

  2. Lizzy (Good Things)
    10/04/2012

    Oh, such a dreamy, beautiful post, Amanda. And thank you so much for the very kind shout out! I love how you have baked the quinces are slow poaching. Thanks for sharing the quince love.

  3. Barbara
    10/04/2012

    Sounds wonderful. I ‘ve never heard of baking the after. Looking forward to trying it.

  4. Rosa
    10/04/2012

    A lovely recipe! Quinces are so versatile and delicious.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  5. Anna @The Littlest Anchovy
    10/04/2012

    You are so lucky to have an orchard of quinces (*sigh*). I just love them on porridge or spooned over good vanilla ice-cream. The next time I get my hands on some farm fresh quinces, I am going to give baking them a go.

  6. Cakelaw
    10/04/2012

    I just adore ruby red poached quinces. I haven’t got any this year, but last year I made quince jelly – just devine.

  7. Charlotte
    11/04/2012

    Oh, fantastic Amanda – I love quinces but am always a bit put off by the involved cooking and this is the perfect solution. Hey also, have you ever cooked them in their skins? I think there’s a way of roasting them in their skins but I haven’t tried it … always looking for a short cut and I hate peeling quinces. But god they are something else, aren’t they. You’ve inspired me, thanks heaps.

  8. Hotly Spiced
    11/04/2012

    What a great post Amanda. So well written. I love quinces but probably because I was never given them as a child by someone with zero ability in the kitchen. I have eaten then poached, but never poached and then baked. I will have to try this xx

  9. Kate
    11/04/2012

    I cannot wax lyrical over quinces after similar childhood experiences but I have slow baked them on a bed of sugar in the past.

  10. Jennifer (Delicieux)
    11/04/2012

    I’ve yet to try quinces in any other form than Maggie Beer’s quince paste, bu I definitely want to try them this season. You’ve definitely inspired me to do that sooner rather than later as your quinces look divine :D

  11. Johanna
    11/04/2012

    Quince to me is such an old favourite isn’t it…I often hear Maggie Beer talking about them. I never see them up here in North QLD, probably not the right climate? Lovely post, thankyou.

  12. InTolerantChef
    11/04/2012

    Amanda they look just so incredible indeed! The colour is so deep and lovely!
    ‘I have noticed that as the years pass, my father is bletting gracefully and not holding back on his emotions as was his habit when younger.’ How’s that for working it into conversation- even if not strictly correct in it’s use :)

  13. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    11/04/2012

    Quinces are enjoying such a revival lately aren’t they! We shared a dessert the other week and someone cooed “Are they quinces!” excitedly! :P

  14. tania@mykitchenstories
    11/04/2012

    “I could weep with joy” at just the thought of the smell of these, oh how I love Quinces. I must shuffle off and find some to cook NOW!

  15. Amanda
    11/04/2012

    Bec – well done you for giving the word of the day a go! Not sure how your father would feel about it, though ……

  16. Nadine Abensur
    11/04/2012

    I like to poach quince in sparkling wine (orpink champagne)and sugar
    And finish off with rose water. Beautifully brings out all the fruit’s delicate notes

  17. Amanda
    11/04/2012

    Nadine – I woke up at 3 this morning (not my usual habit) and thought about using rose water – it would be just sublime.

  18. Cara @ Gourmet Chick
    11/04/2012

    I am so jealous of all your quinces. Perhaps you can make some quince paste? Amazing on a cheese board.

  19. Judy
    11/04/2012

    If anything was going to inspire me to try a quince recipe Amanda, this certainly is it. I also have only ever tried Quince Paste courtesy of Chookie from forumthermomix but I would love to give this recipe a go. Thank you for allowing me to even think about doing it !

  20. Miss Kimbers @ Fruit Salad and Mixed Veg
    12/04/2012

    I have just once quince on my bench. Do you think I can stew it with other fruits (apples and peaches)? I’ve never had once before, so am not sure if it will taste nice, horrible, over power the other fruits etc.

  21. Amanda
    12/04/2012

    Quinces are very hard, so I’d suggest cooking it on it’s own to start with. They are related to apples, so would go well with them, but will be much more flavoursome and fragrant.

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