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Nov 1, 2010 01:07 PM

Poached Quince?

I've been digesting my British cookbooks of late and hence bought some quinces at the Farmer's Market last Sunday. (Although, like much else, they are Middle Eastern in origin.) When I bought the two quinces, they were still green, but one goldened over the course of the week. I was impatient, so I cooked them yesterday, especially after some sites said they might never yellow.

I followed Nigella Lawson's basic recipe in "How To Eat," poaching them in a syrup flavored with sherry, honey, cloves, cinnamon and some other spices. However, Because they had some brown mess in parts of them, I decided to cut them up into chunks as opposed to poach in quarters, as advised.

They turned out, well, uninspiring. I was led to believe they'd be ambrosial and complex and achingly sweet, but instead they were reminiscent of grainy boring apples. Even the syrup didn't reduce enough, although I kept having to add more water and sugar to cover. Did I do something wrong? Should I have let them ripen longer? (And where? some sites suggested in a drawer, others in the sun, others in the fridge.) I barely have enough liquid now to cover the pieces--should I reduce further? And it really didn't thicken, despite much information about quinces' overabundance of pectin. Or should I just try again with new quinces? (quince? quincii?)


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    1. They should be fully ripe, golden yellow and perfume your home with their magical aroma. Buy large and heavy fruits. My produce manager promised to have them in stock in a local grocery in about a week and a half. Be patient they are worth the wait. I love Tarte Tatin made with Quinces, Membrillo which is a quince fruit paste served with Manchego cheese, quince jam or preserves,. They are very high in pectin so jellys are not out of the question. They are a very badly overlooked fruit and very versatile. The only caveat is that they must be cooked. Don't give up on them. Properly treated you have Nirvana.

      1. Rosie, where do you live? Quince ripen only after the first frost. Have you had a frost yet? It doesn't sound like yours were ripe. Once they're ripe, by the way, they'll keep in the fridge almost forever. You can't tell by the feel, really, if they are ripe. They are always super-hard. You just have to wait for a frost.

        8 Replies
        1. re: katecm

          It looks as though the OP is in Southern CA, so no frosts. I'm in the Bay Area and the quinces on my tree started ripening in August and are now pretty much over. When ripe, they should be not only golden yellow, but fuzz-free.

          To the OP: They can be grainy. I honestly probably wouldn't buy them if I didn't have a tree. (They do smell wonderful, though.) But since I have them, I try to use them. The jelly is a gorgeous ruby red and tastes okay. I like it on a baguette with pate. The chutney is good, but I don't use that much chutney. I also cook with quinces a few times each year. I make tangine-type things with lots of spices, slow-cooked with lamb or chicken and served with couscous. The flavors are nice, but the quince can be, as you said, grainy.

          1. re: Glencora

            Glencora, I picked them up at the Hollywood Farmer's Market. What is this "frost" you all speak of? :) They weren't particularly aromatic, but I swear they got less so as time went on, so I thought they were due. I guess I'll try quince again, but I'll look only for good and golden ones from now on. However, what should I do with the cooked quince I do have? They taste fine, if unexciting, and that's in spite of all I added to them (sherry (i didn't have any muscat), cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, honey, cloves, and cardamon pods). i hate to throw things out, but I'm annoyed they didn't work out so well. Any ideas?

            1. re: Rosiepigs

              My SO's first thought was to put it over good quality vanilla ice cream, mine was to convert it to savory. If you google "quince tagine" lots of recipes come up. But if you really don't like the texture, maybe you should toss it.

              1. re: Glencora

                I'm so glad you started this thread, Rosiepigs. Last October I decided to make Nigella's recipe for a Quince brandy. I got some pretty good brandy and put the quinces in to soak. Well, they've been sitting there for a little more than a year. When I first tasted the brandy (about 4 months ago) it was totally blah...I mean blah in the sense that there was no quince taste. Now I tried it again about a week ago with the same results. I imagine that my quinces were not ripe. Sigh.

                I guess I'll have to try again.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  I started experimenting with quince myself this year, although I'm exploring mostardos and other preserves. From what I hear, no commercial quince will ever have the flavor of homegrown, or boutique grown. I'm just playing with it now in case I someday run into the real thing.

                2. re: Glencora

                  this is actually what I did in the end--threw the remaining quince goo into a tagine with lamb and okra. excellent. would do it again.

                3. re: Rosiepigs

                  I love to cook quince together with apple in a pie or a crisp. They have to be pre-cooked, as they take longer than the apple, so this would be a great use for them. Also, they go well with pork, so brown a tenderloin, then remove it. Sautee onions and your slinced quince, add wine, broth, maybe some sage, maybe some cream, and return the tenderloin to finish cooking.

            2. Will green quinces ripen/yellow after picked like other fruit, or do you pick them ripe from the tree? Thanks

              2 Replies
              1. re: geminigirl

                Like the other pome fruits such as apples and pears, quinces are climacteric fruits and should ripen after harvest. But I don't know how effectively they ripen.

                From USDA:
                Ripening Conditions and Ethylene Production: The best ripening temperature for quince fruit after storage is 20 °C (68 ºF). Since quince is a climacteric fruit (Kader, 1992), the acceleration of ethylene production during ripening may be expected. However, literature regarding ethylene biosynthesis in quince fruit is not available.