Vanilla-Poached Quince Recipe

What do you do with a fruit who’s flesh is gritty and rock-hard, inedibly astringent when raw, and as vexing to slice through as a tough ol’ catcher’s mitt?

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No one seems to know what to do when they happen upon some quince at the market. The gnarly-looking fruits seem as if they’ve just been plucked from a medieval centerpiece, surrounding by medlars and split-open pomegranates, mounded alongside sugary dates and clusters of grapes cascading over the sides of the over-sized platter of fruit, waiting to be served with perhaps a chalice of wine.

Quince should be yellow-ripe when you buy them. If bought green, quince should be allowed to ripen at room temperature for a few days until yellow and fragrant. My favorite varieties are Smyrna and Pineapple, but often you just have to pick from what’s offered.
Quince are usually covered with a gray layer of lint-like fuzz, which can be easily washed off. It’s a task I find as satisfying as cleaning the lint filter from the dryer.
(That is, when I had a dryer to clean the lint from.)

The most splendid thing you’ll discover about quince, however, will be the day after you bring them home: your kitchen will be filled with the most marvelous rose-and-violet-like aroma imaginable. I like the fragrance so much that I always left one on the dashboard of my car during quince season.

(That is, when I had a car to drive around with my quince.)

In Paris, I think I’d get some rather peculiar looks if I tried balancing a quince anywhere level on the métro.

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Since quince have lots of tannins they’re impossible to eat raw. Don’t believe me? Try a slice, and I guarantee you’ll be unable to produce saliva for a week afterwards. But you can simply grate raw quince into a bowl of sliced apples destined for an Apple and Quince Crisp, or follow my simple recipe for Quince Marmalade from Ripe For Dessert which calls for several quince to be grated and cooked with sugar and jam, until the tender bits of rosy quince are suspended in a quivering, softy-gelled syrup.

Fully cooked, however, quinces reveal their most beautiful side and turn a rosy-red hue. The stunning quince slices can be served warm or room temperature with some of the cooking liquid, perhaps with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche, or mixed with other poached dried fruits, such as prunes, apricots, sour cherries, or cranberries.

I’ll sometimes alternate quince slices with apples when making a caramelized tarte Tatin

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And the highly-scented cooking liquid becomes even more lovely when reduced to a thick syrup, then drizzled over the tart. Or just pool some of the thick syrup on a plate alongside some slices of sharp cheddar, Roquefort, or sheep’s milk cheese with a handful of dates or some ripe figs.

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Poached Quince

  • 3 quince (about 2 pounds)
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 4½ cups water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and the seeds scraped into the syrup

One caveat: Please don’t cut yourself when slicing or peeling quince. They’re tough little suckers. Tougher than you are. They’ll turn a lovely shade of red on their own without you cutting yourself while slicing them.

1. In a large non-reactive saucepan, bring the sugar, water, and the vanilla bean pod and seeds, to a boil.

2. Peel and quarter the quince using a chef’s knife.
With a paring knife, cut out the tough core and any bits of hard matter surrounding it. Take care, as the flesh is very hard (some people suggest poaching the quince with the cores, then remove them later, but I remove them).
Cut the quince quarters in half or thirds, making 1-inch slices.

3. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the quince slices to the syrup (they’ll begin to brown quickly once cut, so submerge them into the syrup as they’re sliced). Cover with a round of parchment paper, and simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours, or until they’re rosy and tender (poke them with a paring knife if you need to check.)

Once poached, the quince in their liquid will keep in the refrigerator for at least 5 days. You can also use these as a base for my Quince tarte Tatin.

This recipe was updated, and you can find a variation of it here: Rosy Poached Quince.

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19 comments

  • Thank you thank you thank you David!! I bought a couple of quinces last week and have been wondering what to do with them. I’ve never made them before and the only recipes I could find were for jellies – this sounds much more interesting!

  • Oh, me too. Thank you Thank you David! While reading Ripe For Dessert I realized that I had no idea what a Quince was. My curiosity was peaked. Now I know :)

  • Quince lovers unite!

    So glad you’re enjoying the book, Alisa. Thanks for your support.
    (Each book bought allows me to stay in Paris one more day!)

  • I remember all to well the unfortunate night I decided to try and eat a slice of quince. The experience, which came during a period of fruit experimentation when I was unfamiliar with quinces, led me to avoid them for a while. Poaching sounds like a safe way to try my hand at them again.

  • Nice blog you have here!
    I also love quince. I’ve always been used to eat sweets (like jelly squares) made with quince.
    Please come and visit my Swiss and international food blog, thanks!
    Regards,
    Rosa

  • Okay. I can’t take it anymore. David, can I just run away and come live with you in Paris? (I’m sure I’ll have more substantial comments in the future once I digest all the fantastical things on your site….!)

    -Nicole

    PS Your chocolate orbit cake has become a staple in our household. Merci many times over!

  • I’ve never had a quince before, but this makes me want to go and find some.

  • Nicole, dearest! Get in line sweetheart – there are lots and lots of us ahead of you for David to choose from!

  • Have any of you tried membrillo, the Spanish sweet quince paste sold in a block form? One usually finds it as a tapa, paired with Manchego cheese. A match made in heaven!

  • Hi Taina: Yes, I love membrillo…and I have a recipe for making it in Ripe For Dessert. I love quince paste and although you can buy it, it’s not as good, and it’s rather fun to make yourself. I cut it into squares and dip them in sugar, like the French pâte de fruit, aka: French gumdrops!

  • Poached (or even roasted quince) is great in savory dishes, too, especially as an accompaniment to duck or pork.

    I love the idea of the quince on the dashboard (but be forewarned you may be getting angry emails from my wife if I let her know who suggested it).

  • Oh, I like the idea of quince gumdrops. That would be very pretty on a cheese plate.

  • I use to prepare quinces in the “turkish” way – the way I ate them in Istanbul, many many years ago.
    Halve the quinces in two, take out the hard core ( oops!!) , put them in a shallow oven pan, with a syrup made of honey/sugar/ lemon juce/ water, fill the holes in the middle of the half quices with nuts, raisins, any marmelade or confiture you have, maybe more honey and /or maple syrup, some brown sugar, cinammon, cover it with foil and bake about 1-2 hours, or until they are soft. Add water if needed ( it usually does). When soft, take out the foil and let them broil for several minutes under the broiler. There is no need for an exact recipe, just use your imagination or whatever you have at home. Just put enough liquid ( which will turn in a delicious syrup) and cover.
    I also love quince marmelade.
    David, do you have any chocolate honey cake recipe for Rosh Hashana?
    Thanks

  • Simona: Thanks for the amazing recipe idea. I’m going to try it this weekend. Do you peel the quince first, or just bake them and eat, or discard, the skin?
    I don’t have a Chocolate Honey Cake but on my Recipe page there’s an amazing recipe for Matzoh Crunch, which is more for Passover, but any chance I get to make it…I do. No matter that the holiday!

  • Thanks for the prompt reply, David.
    No, I don’t peel the quinces, first of all because it’s a pain in the.. but mainly because it keeps the pulp together . In Turkey ( and in Romania , my country of origin and part of the ancient ottoman empire)it’s served topped with a spoonful of Kaimak, a kind of heavy cream.
    It’s divine with whipped cream, heavy cream and even sour cream. Reminiscences of the Harem…
    Shana Tova,
    Simona

  • My parents had quince trees growing in the orchard on our farm. Mom used to do a couple of things with them – they make fantastic bottled (preserved) fruit, they taste somewhat like a mix between apple and pear when they’ve been bottled and they look so pretty. We just used to eat them like that cold with custard. The dry seasons in Zimbabwe are very long so any fruit we used to consume in the winter months was mostly the preserved variety.

    Freshly prepared poached quince is great in a crumble or as the fruit component of a trifle. My mom used to make something called quince butter, but I don’t know the recipe. My gran used to puree them to serve with icecream.

    As a savoury accompaniment they are good in a few different meat dishes, anything where you would use apple or pear. They can be used for stuffing for chicken too, with nuts etc.

    (Can you tell we ate a lot of them!?)

  • Oh, I love quince so much, it’s one of my favorite fruits. I really love this post! I actually just posted about a recipe: Chicken with Quince from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food, and I must say it’s absolutely a winner (sorry,the blog is in Hungarian, but you can see the picture if you want to have a look)
    Love your site.

  • Hi Dave the pic of the “can u guess what this is – its not wht u think” is a photo of canneles de bourdeaux. I freeze them to keep them fresh. Try it. michel

  • Thank you for the great site.
    Another suggestion for Simona recipe (I am also from Romania :): add a whole clove in each half of a quince. Remove it before serving the baked quinces.