Rosy Poached Quince

quince

It’s annoying to come across a recipe raving about the taste or beauty of something exotic or unattainable. You can’t please everyone (no matter how hard I try…) and although not everyone can find quince in their local market, they’re not necessarily all that hard to track down. Heck, sometimes they’re right in your own back yard.

Yet even if you do scope some out, the bummer is that quince aren’t all that easy to prepare. But like most things that we so desperately want, they take time and patience, and they take work. If not, all us men would be walking around with abs like Daniel Craig. No matter how hard some of us try.

Fear not, although some of us are too far past our prime to have les tablettes de chocolat that are the envy of all, anyone can prepare quince. You just need a sharp paring knife and a bit of daring. The most vital thing to know is to be very, very careful when cutting the quince. Although they look as innocent as apples and pears, the flesh and core can be especially tough and a slip of the knife is all-too-easy, so pay attention. Some folks slip out the core with a melon baller, which is possible, although may take a bit of effort as well.

quince

Resist the temptation to add too many kinds of spices to the poaching liquid. You can follow my example, keeping it simple, or add a few cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, slices of fresh spicy ginger, some 5-star anise, a mini-blitz of whole cloves, or a combination of a couple of them. But don’t add handfuls of spices, since you want them to augment the flavor of the quince, not obliterate it.

The great thing about poached quince is that they can be made up to a week in advance and stored in their poaching liquid,. The longer they marinate, the redder they get. The ruby-red quarters in the photo were just-poached, but a few days later, when I opened the lid, the color was almost neon-scarlet.

quince

Quince are very good served with other poached dried apricots and prunes, or in a compote with any other poached fresh fruit, like pears or apples. Or if you have any fresh or frozen raspberries on hand, you can add a handful to the quince and their liquid, once cool*.

I add a few chunks to my mid-morning bowl of granola and yogurt, which I eat around 10 am each day, to tide me over during that terribly-long stretch between breakfast and dinner. (Unfortunately I eat a lot of other stuff during the day, too, which I’m certain contributes to my non-Daniel Craig-like physique.)

quince and granola

Speaking of tasty dishes, poached quince are delectable spooned over vanilla ice cream or tossed with some apples and cranberries for a terrific fruit crisp, capped with polenta crisp topping. If you don’t feel like poaching your quince, grate the raw flesh right into a bowl of apple or pear slices destined for a pie or crumble.

Because the fruit has beaucoup de natural pectin, when reduced to a honey-like syrup in a saucepan, the liquid is exceptionally beautiful and thick, and makes a lovely, thick liquid nectar for drizzling or glazing a fruit tart. And it keeps for longer than you think; I have a small container that I made last year that I’ve been dipping into the last few months, in anticipating of the next batch, which, as you can see, is just about ready.

Poached Quince

Quince are not usually raised commercially, so you won’t find many picture-perfect specimens. Expect a few bruises and scrapes, but avoid fruits with soft, dark spots. Like pears, quince ripen from the inside out, so later in the season, you might find fruit that’s past its prime when you cut them open. I look for firm quince and lift them to my nose; if they have a nice fragrance, there’s a good chance they’re good candidates for poaching.

Some recipes advise soaking the peeled quince slices in lemon-tinged water to avoid browning. I’ve never done that, but instead, I simply slip them into the warm poaching liquid and any trace of discoloration soon disappears. Of course, this recipe can be halved, or increased.

  • 7 cups (1.75l) water
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (150g) honey
  • 1 lemon (preferably unsprayed), cut in half
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 6 large, or 8 medium, quince

1. Mix the water, sugar, honey, lemon and vanilla bean in a large non-reactive pot and turn it on to medium-to-high heat. You can add any additional spices or seasonings, as indicated above, if you wish.

2. While the liquid is heating, quarter, peel, and remove the cores of the quince. Make sure to removed anything tough for fibrous, being very careful with the knife. (The intrepid can wear one of these.)

3. As you peel and prepare the quince quarters, slip each one into the simmering liquid. Once they’re all done, cover the pot with a round of parchment paper with a walnut-sized hole cut in the center and place it on top.

4. Simmer the quince (do not boil) for at least an hour, until the quince are cooked through.

Cooking time will vary, depending on the quince. They’re done when they are cooked through, which you can verify by piercing one with the tip of a sharp paring knife. It’s not unusual for them to take up to 2 hours, or more.

Serve warm, or at room temperature. To store, pour the quince and their liquid into a storage container and refrigerate for up to one week.

You can also use these poached quince to make my Quince tarte Tatin.

theflavorbiblecoverdepix0808.JPG

*After I wrote this post, I consulted The Flavor Bible, a brand new, comprehensive dictionary to pairing flavors, and there were some I never thought of or had overlooked: whiskey, goat cheese, lamb, mascarpone, Armagnac, cardamom, black pepper (oops…I had that one), raisins, and Riesling. It’s an interesting guide!

And here are two previous posts I wrote on quince: There is a simple Vanilla-Poached Quince recipe with photos and tips on peeling and preparing the fruits.

And you can also read Quince Revisited on how to reduce the syrup to a quick jelly which is great with cheese, well as Elise’s version of Quince Paste, also known as Membrillo.

58 comments

  • Hi David
    Love this poached quince recipe, one that I will try sooner rather than later. Keep up the good work….you are an inspiration.

  • Beautiful and delicious. I have done safron poached pears and they were just superb too. Will try this also.

  • I absolutely love the polenta crisp topping idea! I’ve got some pears in my fruit basket that need to be eaten soon… Thanks!

  • Lately, many bloggers blogged about quinces and various ways to prepare them. All mentioned the difficulty to peel and clean them. I use quinces for ages and never, but never ever have them peeled. I do core them ( hard enough) but why peel them? they look wonderful unpeeled and taste delicious unpeeled in jams, poached or otherwise.
    I also core them but leave them whole, and fill the cavity with nuts, honey etc and bake them ( like baked apples- but with plenty of water and spices in the pan, as they are taking a lot of time to soften and they need loquids).
    Bon Appetit!
    Simona

  • Simona: For some reason, I’ve always peeled quince. I think because the skin is tough and thick, I just shuck it away. Next time I cook some, I’ll leave a few unpeeled, and see how they taste.

    If anyone else ever leaves quince unpeeled, I’d be interested in hearing about it.

  • I used to get quince every year from a neighbor who had a beautiful tree, and I never knew what to do with them except to make jam. I love the idea of making poached quince ahead, and letting them blossom in the fridge. Will bookmark and keep this in mind for next year’s harvest.

  • The color after poaching is amazing. I’ll have to search some out — maybe at our local farmer’s market? Wish me luck.

  • I don’t peel my quince either–I enjoy the skin, which is quite soft after the long simmering in sugar syrup. I love, love quinces–I don’t know if I love the aroma, the post-cooking color, or the exotic appley taste more.

    This week I planted a quince tree. If staring at it and hoping can make it produce fruit, next year will be a bumper crop.

  • I never peel my quinces either but that is just pure laziness. Your pictures look lovely and I am eager to try and find some quinces here in Vienna now. My all-time favourite recipe has to be Red Roast Quinces by Nigella Lawson. They turn almost into a sticky quince toffee. Delicious!

  • Also, I like to add a few limes as it cooks, to sharpen the sweetness.

  • I live the the warm southern US, where I enjoy many & various fruits, but I’ve never had quince. Not once. So, I’m very curious…

    How would you describe the flavour of poached quince?

    The description of raw quince in your previous quince-poaching post made my mouth pucker in remembrance of an immature persimmon I gleefully plucked off a tree and ignorantly popped into my mouth. Ptoueeee! It was three years before I had the courage to give persimmons another chance.

  • I use the unpeeled quinces in a lamb stew recipe that Chez Panisse has in their book “Fruit.” The first time I made it , I thought “this is never going to go over.” I never got a taste. Now there isn’t a winter where I don’t make it at least a couple of times. Something in the stew keeps them from turning rosy though. They look more like thick slices of potato when they’re done.

  • I have never eaten quince before and this sounds like a delicious way to try it! It seems like it would go beautifully with a winter holiday feast. Thanks, David.

  • Wish I’d had this recipe last night! Ended up poaching a quince in marsala with brown sugar and lemon zest. Delicious with honey-vanilla ice cream. But I was too lazy to peel the quince, and it’s hard to hack through a poached peel with a spoon.

  • i grew up eating poached quince and membrillo. quince grew all around us. when autumn came, we found quinces on the ground everywhere on the way to school. no one could pick them fast enough. so now it is one of those nostalgic foods i so crave, just like petit suisse, jamon jabugo or the junkie marshmallows you mentioned before. i got hold of some quince a couple of weeks ago but that was it. i haven’t seen any since. oh god, i’d die for some of that poached quince withthe syrup!

  • I just love the colour of cooked quince – it’s like a sunset isn’t it?

  • I just raided my family’s quince tree a week ago, and my first few attempts to cook with them made it pretty clear that they were under-ripe. So, I left them for a few days (and sort of forgot about them…) until their heavenly sent motivated me to get around to poaching them last night.

    The thing is, when I started peeling them I noticed that quite a few of them were turning a brownish color on the inside. Has anyone ever had this issue? I wasn’t sure if they were still good to cook with, and my mother (encyclopedia of all things quince) is out of town and not available for comment! Google didn’t deliver either…

    Do any experienced quince eaters out there know if they are still okay to eat if the flesh has turned a bit brown? They may not look as pretty but I’m not convinced that’s reason enough to let them go to waste…

  • I love love love quince! The first recipe I used was from Claudia Fleming’s book “The Last Course” for a poached quince cake. It was fabulous. AND the poached quince was delicious. Thank you, David, I am happy to know that if you leave the fruit in the poaching liquid it deepens in colour. That is the coolest part, that the fruit develops this amazing hue.

    Also, you can make a great quince paste/candy (different recipe-I used a combination of several) that is outrageous and keeps forever. If it lasts that long…

  • Your quince are longer than mine. Or maybe mine are more plump. Regardless, I’d like to try this since I’ve got two quince left from my first ever foray with this fruit. I like the idea of them sitting in the poaching liquid. Pink? I had no idea. Thanks for the enlightenment.

  • Far be it from me to encourage lawlessness, but you can always try to steal a few quince as well. At least that’s what works for me:-)

    I dealt with my stolen bounty this past weekend, and the jam recipe I used (Elise’s) called for peel left on, but the quince was grated and it seemed the peel just disappeared in the long simmering. The membrillo recipe (also Elise’s—my weekend was sponsored by Simply Recipes) called for them peeled, but then had you blend them in a food processor. Next time I’ll just leave the peel on.

    And now I have to go steal some more to make this recipe!
    If I get caught, David, can I blame it on you?

  • David, I made a lamb shank braise to which I added a peeled, quartered quince in the last half hour. I was surprised to see that the quince softened up nicely but stayed creamy white after it was cooked. Do you know, is it the added sugar that turns the quince that lovely shade of pinkish red?

  • I usually jsut rub the fluff from the quinces, wash them, put them in a pot, cover with water and bring to the boil. Then I let them cool in the poaching liquid. After that, they’re easy to peel and core. I use as much of the poaching liquid as I need for my recipe and boil the rest with the cores, seeds and peels, strain and use the liquid to make jelly or syrup. (By the way, the seeds are used for curative teas and infusions in herb lore – especially good for coughs.).
    Quince compote with chillies or curry is very good, and quince is superb in a lamb tagine!
    As for the ripe, spotless quinces with brown spots or brownish flesh inside – they’re perfectly all right. The brown spots are often a sign that the weather was too good – the trees bear more fruit than the can nourish, but the fruit is edible nonetheless. Although you might make jam instead of quince tarte Tatin in this case.
    May I suggest trying flowering quinces (the decorative kind) for jams and jellies as well? They have a wonderfully flowery flavour and are chock-full of vitamins (like the regular quinces)!

  • May I just say, “rosy poached quince” is perhaps the most poetic post title of all time? Awfully fancy and yet perfectly simply.

    : )

  • “But like most things that we so desperately want, they take time and patience, and they take work. If not, all us men would be walking around with abs like Daniel Craig. ” HAHAHA. Just one of the reasons why I love reading your stuff, David.
    P.S. The picture of the finished product is scrumptious… : )

  • I ADORE quinces. But apparently this year was an awful harvest for them (in the UK at least) because of the wet summer/lack of frost last winter. So I haven’t seen them anywhere yet!

  • They also smell lovely as they ripen on the table. Heading to market ASAP!

  • I became a huge fan of quinces when a neighbor had a windfall and unloaded a few on me or so I thought. Hmmm, rock hard orbs of little flavor. The joke was on me; all it took was some heat and sugar. I made quince jam that looked like a jellied jewel, my gosh the color is amazing; the flavor spritely and unusual. Some jam I reduced further and made a paste to serve with cold meats and cheeses. Ooh baby Ooh. I’ve since planted two trees. My crop is over with, but just wait until next year– a poaching we will go!

  • I love quinces and have got lucky as there’s a tree in the garden opposite and friendly non-quince cooking neighbours. So this year I’ve made around 20 jars of quince jelly and we’ll be having some with our goose on Christmas Day. Also lovely on crumpets.

  • Rosy poached quince, you are a poet David and I have to admit, I am addicted to your blog….I am dreaming of a prompt return to Paris because of you.

  • Quince dessert is one of the most popular and traditional winter desserts in Turkey.
    Common practice is to peel them and to lay the peels on the bottom of a wide and shallow pot. Then the quinces are cut in half, cored and put on top of the peels, cut-sides up. The seeds are kept aside.
    We fill the cavity of each quince half with 1 tbs granulated sugar, put a few seeds on each and add 1 cup water for each quince. (Sometimes I replace half of the water with pomegranate juice which augments the red color and gives a bit of tartness.) A few cloves are added as whole, in order to take them away afterwards.
    It is slowly cooked covered on low heat about two hours. At the end the syrup should be thickend like jelly.

    So simple and delicious, I couldn’t keep from sharing…

  • Hi Dory: Thanks for the Turkish quince dessert! I do have a question: if you remove the seeds, why do you add some back? Is it for the pectin? Otherwise, I’d imagine, they’d just get in the way and need to be picked out later.

    I may try it this weekend. Thanks!

  • I’m breathing smoke in L.A. but wishing I were in Paris eating rosy poached quince. *sigh*

  • David, I’m proud to see that you are interested:)
    You are totally right, the seeds need to be picked out later, or just left at the side of the plate while eating. They are added for enhancing the red color; this is how everybody tells (eg. recipe books, my mother). Maybe next time I should cook in two batches, one with, and the other without seeds, to see the difference.
    Another tip is to let the quinces wait with sugar for a few hours before adding the water, but I didn’t try by myself.

  • Funny, I grew up in a house in CT with a quince bush/ tree right next to the house and we never did anything with the fruit. We really never knew much about it and how it tasted, nor did we ever bother to pick it. I guess we never appreciated what we had. Your photos makes them look like a cousin of a pear in some respects. And you are correct in that unless you have it growing in your yard, you can’t find it in a store either.
    We also had other fruit growing there as well, but that’s another story.

  • david said : “we’re not the only ones who crave Les oursins guimauve.”

    Les OursOns, je crois :)
    OursIns is the french name for sea-urshin as you may know. I bet those would be way more crispy actually, even covered with chocolate :D

  • I was so excited to find this idea for the quince that grow in my yard and have been so totally ignored in the past.

    I followed your directions with the exception of peeling them. Since several comments were made regarding the peel, I thought I’d just take the easy way out.

    My problem is that they cooked way too fast. I checked them after about 20 minutes and they were falling to pieces. I have floating quince flesh and peelings in a pale liquid.

    I know my pieces were smaller than yours. Some of my quince were so small that I cut the larger ones so they’d all cook in about the same time. I expected them to take at least an hour.

    Any idea why or what I could do now?

  • Hi Deb: Yikes, I’ve never had quince cook so quickly. You can scoop out the pieces and add them to a filling for apple pie or crisp, or even stuffing. You can also puree them like applesauce, enjoying them on their own, or re-cooking them with chunks of apples.

    If you do puree they, it’d make a perfect base for Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, too!

  • Hee.. I have the same scale as you (I find it rather unpleasant sometimes, but it’s an old friend and I don’t give it up, no matter how sleek and pretty those counter-top glass scales are.)

    I bought quince last year and sadly let it rot because I couldn’t figure it out. I’ll be on the look-out again this year.

    I looked for about 6 months for that scale, since it’s the only one I was able to find in France that had the option of metrics and ounces. I was really surprised, since most of the scales in the US had a simple switch on the bottom so you could use either.

    The ones I found here had a place for the switch, but no switch itself. I did buy one that was advertised as having both, but when I opened the box, it only had metrics. Returning it was an afternoon of fun, and worthy of a blog entry…but I’ve tried to block the experience from my mind of the endless paperwork and lines I had to wait in! If it ever breaks, I’m sunk. -dl

  • Hi, I never tried poaching Quince before. A few weeks ago I saw this fruit being displayed at the local Safeway, so I decided to buy some. I followed exactly your recipe, but my quince still pale off white, no pinkysh at all….what did I do wrong?
    Thanks.

  • Have you ever tried to cook quince in a crockpot? It seems that would work well since it takes so long to cook.

  • Hi David , thank you for sharing the information.

  • I poached four huge quinces using your recipe, David (I must admit I used a lot less honey and sugar, however). K. had several slices for dessert tonight and I’m planning to make tarte Tatin tomorrow.
    Delish!!!

  • Just made these and I love them. However, I took the poaching liquid and turned this recipe up to 11. Reserve the poaching liquid, chill, and in a mixer with ice, add 2 parts poaching liquid, 1 part dark rum, squirt of lemon or lime juice, and a dash of bitters. Shake and serve in a cocktail glass with a lemon/lime garnish. A wonderful aperitif or after dinner cocktail. Problem is, I just don’t know what to call it! Any ideas?

  • Four quince trees grow here in CT. My parents made quince jelly that was always a beautiful light amber color. Once I came here to live, I started making the jelly but ran out of time once and put the amber liquid into the fridge for a week. Next weekend, I reheaded the liquid to make jelly and with the additional cooling it turned the radiant rosy dark pink in your photos. I always thought the color came from the long cooking and have since then achieved that color through long cooking. To make jelly, I simply cut washed quince into quarters, then put the quarters into a cuisinart to cut them up more finely. They cook more quickly this way and are far less trouble than peeling and coring. The red liquid then goes through jelly bags and it is ready to make jelly. Once I go to the effort of peeling and coring quince, I do poach it and freeze it in small containers to add to apple pies, stews, etc during the rest of the year. I look forward to trying your fabulous looking and sounding dessert. Thank you, David.

  • I loved the Rosy Poached Quince recipe and modified it a bit to formulate a quince jam recipe, as follows:
    Deed’s Own Quince Jam Recipe
    Ingredients:
    4 Cups Grated Quince (6 Large Quinces)
    1 Cup Cold Water
    1/2 Cup Pasteurized Liquid Honey
    1 Tbsp. Bottled Lemon Juice
    1/4 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
    1 Pkg Bernardin (Reg. TM) Original Fruit Pectin
    1/2 Tsp. Butter
    4 Cups Berry Sugar
    Directions:
    Place water, honey, lemon juice and vanilla extract in pan and set aside. Peel, core and quarter quinces, placing them in holding solution of 4 cups water mixed with 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice. Grate 4 cups of quince pulp and place in water mixture. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat for 35 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in Bernardin (Reg. TM) Original Fruit Pectin until dissolved. Add 1/2 tsp. butter. Over high heat, bring mixture to a full boil. Add all of the sugar. Stirring constantly, return mixture to full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard for 60 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam, if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars to within 1/4-inch from top of jar. Clean jar tops, place lids and bands, and process in a boiling water canner for 10 mins. Turn off heat and remove lid from canner. Wait 5-10 mins. before removing jars from canner. Cool 12 hours undisturbed. Makes 6 x 250 ml jars.

  • I have just had a bumper crop from my Quince Tree that I planted some 25 years ago. I will use the poached quince recipe and also have a go at Quince Wine fortified with Brandy. One question. I read somewhere that the fine fluff on the skin should be rubbed off before preparing. The fact that it rubs off easily I read was an indication that the Quince was ripe. I can’t find the source of this advice and wondered if it were correct.

    Dave Day

  • Dave: I don’t know; I’ve not heard that before about the fuzz.

  • Thank for the reply David. I will keep looking.

  • K Weichold on February 27, 2010 10:56 PM – Cocktail Name Suggestion:
    He should call it the Quincy Jones Cocktail : )

    Just poached 4 beauaies from the farmers’s market.
    Plan to combine with Jonathan apples and cinnamon for a nice tart for dessert tonight. I used an apple corer/slicer and peeler and the preparation was simple.

  • Do’nt know whats happened, after only 5 minutes mine have turned to mush!! Never mind have got 2 Quince bushes in the garden which are absolutely laden with fruit
    so will try again next weekend.

  • A local farm stand at which I have shopped for over 30 years, had quince for the first time yesterday. I asked the owner/baker what she does with them. Basically, she makes jam. She spoke about their tart nature. I came home, did some research, and decided that poaching sounded like an easy approach. Plus, one of the farm stand workers gave me one gratis when he saw me hesitate on buying them. The perfume it gave off inspired me to try them. I followed this recipe, and they are sitting on my stove top, rosy and poached and delicious.

  • I made this recipe last night with some of the quinces my friend gave me from her garden and it was delicious! Do you know if I can preserve poached quinces (covered in poaching liquid) in a jar (like jelly) or if it’ll go bad? It seems like a shame that I’ll only be able to enjoy this for 3 weeks in the fridge!

  • Sarah: Unfortunately the sugar concentration isn’t high enough to preserve them for a long period of time without canning. So you’ll just have to enjoy them during their season!

  • I’m delighted to have found your recipe searching “peel quince?” on Google! You are a food source I trust implicitly and I’m eager to see how my quince turn out.

    Merci for being a fabulous resource, David.

  • Good morning David. Yesterday i made the quince marmalade recipe from ‘ROOM FOR DESSERT”. I followed the recipe to the letter ( well almost). I used 3 quinces ( together 900 grams and they were not extremely large. So double the weight of yours) With a liter of water it didnot seem too much. If i would have used 450 grams it would have been not enough, im pretty sure. And then………………… the syrup never thickened enough to get a proper marmelade. Certainly not thick enough to use for an “easy marmelade tart”. Today the day after I found out it really didnot set. Do you have any idea what have happened and could you check if the 450 grams is really right for your recipe? Unfortunately i have to wait for next autumn to continu my quince kitchen discoveries. Finally I hope you survived the winter of 2010 so far. All the best for you in 2011. Rijk

  • Hi Rijk: Because fruit doesn’t come in standard-sized portions, I added the weights as a guide. But I just use 3 large quince as noted in the recipe and when I weighed 3 of them, that was the weight I came up with. (The water boils out so you could add much more water if you wish-it’ll just take longer for it to cook off.)

    Quince are extraordinarily high in pectin and if your marmalade didn’t thicken, I can’t imagine what went wrong since they gel quickly. Depending on where you live, perhaps your quince were very ripe, which can decrease the pectin content. Although I’ve not noticed a difference and I’ve made that marmalade plenty of times. You could add some pectin, if available, and cook it until it gels.

  • I ended up making the “easy marmalade tart” with it. It still looked a bit too liquid when i added it. But i think it must have dried out in the oven and it made a beautifull and good tasting tart. Thanks.