Vanilla Poached Quince Recipe

Quinces

Where is the online scratch ‘n sniff when you need it?

Since such technology is not yet available to us (sheesh!), we’ll just have to rely on our imagination and invoke, in our mind’s nose, the irresistibly sweet, floral, candy-like scent that quince, the most gnarled and unprepossessing subject of the fruit kingdom, emits.

In fact, if you were to cook quinces right away upon purchasing them, I would call you crazy: what you should do instead is keep them for a few days on a platter somewhere, in your kitchen or living room, where they’ll act as a natural home fragrance.

When you’re done near-fainting with felicity every time you take a whiff, it’s time to poach them and enjoy the second surprise they have in store: the flesh of quince, which doesn’t look like much and tastes horrible when raw, takes on a ravishing, ruby pink shade* and a most palatable flavor when cooked.

Because quince has a high pectin content, quince paste (or dulce de membrillo, or jam, or jelly) is the most common use for it, but these preparations are usually too sweet for my taste, and I prefer my quinces as a compote, poached in a not-too-sweet syrup**.

After a few hours of simmering — yes, it takes that long — the wedges become soft, with a pleasantly grainy textural veil, and taste like a cross between an excellent apple and an even better pear, with underlying notes of honey and spice.

There is one caveat, and it has certainly tainted the reputation of quince with cooks everywhere: it is rather laborious to peel and quarter and core: unlike the pear and apple, its comelier cousins, it opposes the blade with an almost wood-like resistance. Sharpening your knives helps, as does wearing gloves, recruiting a commis, and/or cursing under your breath every once in a while.

Quince is an autumn fruit, so look for yellow and downy specimens now, at the greenmarket or in somebody’s orchard — it is my understanding that most quince trees*** produce a lot more fruit than anyone in their right mind is willing to deal with, so the owner may be happy to part with a few.

I eat poached quince for breakfast, with homemade yogurt and muesli, but it can also be served for dessert, slightly warm, with a scoop of almond milk ice cream and a butter cookie. You can also use the drained chunks of fruit in a cake or tart, pair them with a piece of sharp cheese (blue cheese, or a firm sheep’s milk cheese such as manchego), or serve them as a side to roasted duck or game.

~~~

* Lucy, over at Nourish Me, has pictures of the transformation.

** As a rule of thumb, I use about 10% sugar: 10 grams of sugar for every 100 grams of trimmed quince flesh. The compote can then be used with sweet or savory dishes; and if I want it sweeter, I can always add a little honey.

*** In French, quince = le coing; quince tree = le cognassier.

Vanilla Poached Quince

– 2 kg (4.4 pounds) ripe quinces, about 8 (a ripe quince is chiefly yellow, with faint green highlights)
– 160 grams (3/4 cup, packed) unrefined cane sugar
– 1 pod vanilla

The recipe can be halved.

Place the quinces in the sink, cover with warm water, and rub them in the water to remove the fuzzy down on their skin. Rinse, drain, and dry.

Peel the quinces with a vegetable peeler. Using a very sharp knife, cut each quince in quarters, carve out the core, and cut into wedges. This is a bit of a workout; be extremely cautious with that knife and try not to gash your hand open.

Regular pot method:

Fill a heavy cast-iron pot with 2 liters (8 cups) water and the sugar. Bring to a simmer and add the quince. Split the vanilla pod open lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with the dull side of a knife blade, and add the seeds and pod to the pot. Stir to combine.

Cover and keep at a low simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring regularly but gently, until the fruit is soft and ruby-pink. Remove the lid for the last half-hour so the syrup will reduce a bit.

Pressure cooker method:

Place the quinces, the sugar and the vanilla in the pressure cooker, and add in water just to cover the fruit. Cook for 30 minutes starting from the whistle of the safety valve.

Let cool, cover, and refrigerate until the next day, to let the flavors settle and develop. Poached quinces freeze splendidly, too.

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  • Joan

    They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
    And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
    They danced by the light of the moon.

    My first recollection of hearing the word ‘quince’…when I was a wee gal listening to the words of “The Owl and the Pussycat”.

    Quince paste and cheddar cheese..oh my!

    ‘n Clotilde I DO agree with the difficulty of the peeling :-)

  • http://sweetcilantro.canalblog.com jo_L

    Beautiful, as usual…

    I have been reading this blog for more than two years now but have never left a comment. Too impressed and delighted by everything that you offer us, Clotilde. However, I think it is unfair not to let you know how much I like what you do. It is everything I love about cooking, tasty and simple, with good products and imagination. I know I am not the only one to say so, but I wanted to tell you that this blog is very inspiring…

  • jindra

    Actually, quinces are quite easy to peel and core if you pre-poach them: rub the fuzz from your quinces and rinse them. Put them in a pot, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let the quinces cool in the liquid. Now you can peel and core them with ease. Use as much of the liquid they cooked in as you need for your recipe (cook the rest with the cores and peels, then strain and use the liquid for quince jelly or syrup with a suitable amount of sugar) So much easier, and it doesn’t ruin your manicure either! Oh – try adding a bit of fresh chili to your compote. Dreamy!

  • http://joiedevivreanamateurgourmetsguide.blogspot.com/ Joie de vivre

    Clotilde,
    You are making me seethe with jealousy at your wonderful description of the quince’s fragrance. I’ve yet to see one for sale ever in the States. If I ever do, I will of course buy them up and run to try your recipe. In the meantime, I’ll live vicariously through you.

    • Robin Elder

      Thank you for giving me the best description of how to peel quince easily. I will certainly try your method this time when I pick my own quince. It makes so much sense.

  • http://www.fromsingletomarried.com Tabitha (From Single to Married)

    This is why I love your blog – I’ve never even heard of quince (I really need to get out more) and now I want to go find them just to see how they smell! thanks for the post!

  • http://theendivechronicles.com/ Erin

    I adore quince and this compote sounds perfect. I’ll have to check with my produce man to see if he has any quince yet.
    Lovely post as usual.

  • oliverde

    Quince. Yum.

    Hi Clotilde,

    Have you ever tried micro-waving them? They retain their golden colour, are easy to core, and absolutely scrumptious when mushed into a smooth paste…skins and all.

  • http://tribecayummymummy-cate.blogspot.com cate

    i have 3 bags of quince sitting in my kitchen right now-at least some of them just waiting to be poached. thanks for the little push.

  • Alexis

    That’s what the spanish call membrillo, they make a very firm jam and eat it as dessert with some manchego or smoked sheep’s cheese. It’s very good btw :D

  • http://www.grapejournal.blogspot.com Laura in Burgundy

    Clothilde,

    Quince seem to abound over here in France. My neighbour here in Burgundy gave me a wheelbarrow full of them two days ago and I have been wondering since “Now what the heck am I going to do with these hairy things!?!”

    I also have rather fancy friends from Paris coming for dinner on Friday night and a slew of my husband’s family for one of those endless Sunday lunches (even longer in Burgundy than elsewhere I think) and I was wondering “now what the heck and am I going to make for dessert?”

    Thanks you Clothilde for solving my two conundrums via one delicious, original idea. It will be poached quinces with homemade tuiles this weekend. Merci!

    Laura (from over at http://www.grapejournal.blogspot.com)

  • http://www.ambrosiaquest.com Paula Maack

    You are killing me with this, Clotide! J’adore anything quince.

    What an inspiring post with so many great ideas! And, such a perfect recipe, too.

    If only I could find quince here in the states. Alas, I have only enjoyed quince in Italy and France, so far.

    Anyone have a tip on where to find Quince in the SF Bay area? This is cruel!

    Cheers,

    ~ Paula

  • Katie Heikkinen

    Ha! This reminds me of when I lived in Sweden and I found a tree just abundant with what I thought were fancy apples. I took a whole bunch home and, well, they were too hard to eat. Only later (after throwing them out) did I learn what they were. Whoops.

    You might like to know that there is a recipe for Lamb and Quince stew over at Chow. Sounds interesting.

  • Pauline

    Clothilde,

    Quinces are easy to peel (and the cores easy to remove) after a couple of hours in a low oven. Just wash off the fuzz first.

    I then pack the flesh into plastic bags, about 350g at a time, squash them flat, and freeze. Quince makes a wonderful Tarte Tatin.

    Laura,

    Lucky you! In my part of Burgundy there aren’t many quinces about after last year’s bumper harvest.

  • karin

    quinces are also the best-tasting medicine for someone suffering with the bowels (crohn diisease, colitis ulcerosa)

  • http://jodimop.wordpress.com FoodJunkie

    Hello Clotilde!
    In Greece cooking with quince is very common, even for savoury dishes (it goes well with beef, pork and game). However, making quince go soft takes 30 minutes! All you need to do is leave your quince to really turn yellow and ripen fully as an under-ripe fruit will take longer to bake. Try it next time and let me know!

  • http://thewiveswithknives.blogspot.com Wives with Knives

    I see quince in our local farmer’s market this time of year, but I’ve never known what to do with them. I’m curious now and will definitely give them a try.

  • Mary

    I wrote an article recently for the school newspaper about different kinds of pie, and I suggested adding quince to an apple pie. . .All of the newspaper staff looked at me strangely because they didn’t know what quince was. I haven’t actually tried it, but I keep hearing about it. Does anyone know where to get it in California?

  • http://www.starrybluesky.wordpress.com Rhiannon

    Love quince ! But so hard to find them here -never spot them at the farmer’s market , so my only hope is finding some in a friendly garden.

  • Eirine

    For those in the Bay Area there have been quince available at the Sacramento farmer’s market for the past two weeks. This is the Sunday morning, 8-noon farmer’s market that meets under the freeway – roughly 8th& V. As of last week there was also roasted chestnuts. :)

  • Eirine

    Is it possible to use vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans? The vanilla pods are rather expensive.

  • http://discoverunearthed.wordpress.com Discover Unearthed

    Lumpy, bumpy but also scrummy. You’ve got to love the quince. It is like the least good looking (grammar issues?!) TV-show contestant with the best voice of the lot!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Eirine – You could certainly substitute natural vanilla extract; 1/2 teaspoon should do.

  • http://www.alwaysorderdessert.com Alejandra

    I love quince! I just made membrillo for the first time (upping the lemon and adding vanilla to balance the sweetness). I love it with salty cheese. And my boyfriend just called and informed me that he found more quince on sale at a market near his office so i told him to buy me as many as he could carry. Will absolutely take your recommendation for part of the bounty. Thank you!

  • http://theb-line.blogspot.com Amy

    I’ve never been brave enough to try quince before, but you’ve convinced me that I’m really missing out. Now, to find one here in Michigan…. Thanks for your enlightening and mouth-watering post!
    Amy

  • http://balancefood.blogspot.com Chou

    I’ve never had quince, but your description for breakfast sounds divine. I will remedy this travesty as quickly as possible.

  • http://www.nourish-me.typepad.com Lucy

    Just what every good kitchen should smell like in autumn!

    Even as I sit here, looking out of the office/bedroom window, out onto blossoming fruit trees, you are making me seasonally envious. And wishing, Very Hard, that I had planted a small quince of my own…maybe next year. (Thanks!)

  • elise

    I have only just discovered your blog but it has already inspired me to do new things in the kitchen. So thank you!
    I was especially interested to read that quince are difficult to find in many parts of the U.S. – I am writing from Ontario, Canada where they grow (here and there) and can be found in markets this time of year. As a child, friends had a tree in their yard and I remember standing under it, inhaling deeply during the last sunny days of autumn.

  • http://casalba.wordpress.com casalba

    This is a lovely site brought to my attention by a message on mine. I love what you are doing there and have just spent the last half hour going through your recipes: inspiring and original. Brava!

  • http://ginevramezzo.blogspot.com/ Ginevra

    Clotilde, after reading this post I actually DREAMED about quince that night. So I knew I had to get some. Today I found them (only about 5) at my Whole Foods just north of Boston. $2 each but I figured it was worth it. Can’t wait to try them! And you are right, they smell divine on my countertop and make me happy every time I walk by.

    By the way, your pork roast with prunes and cabbage was insanely delicious.

  • http://thecanberracook.blogspot.com Cath the Canberra Cook

    Slow roasting or poaching them whole is another option. It’s a bit fiddly to get the skin off afterwards – a lot harder than with tomatoes, as it doesn’t tend to come off in big swathes. But it’s doable, and the quartering bit is dead easy.

  • Eirine

    Using Jindra’s suggestions I made poached quince with vanilla and then quince & vanilla jelly tonight and canned it all – YUM!
    Thank you, Clothilde, for giving me a reason to try quince.

  • Bebe

    For all of you quince lovers out there, here’s a link to my favourite quince recipe –
    Quince Pound Cake.

    It is delicious! Just try not to overcook the quince, and certainly don’t cut it into very small pieces prior to cooking.

    And for Clotilde, another challenge – anything interesting with persimmon?
    :-)

  • Athicha

    While hiking around the Uetliberg in Zurich, we found an orchard store with fragrant apples and pears. They were giving out quinces for free! I took a few home and dutifully waited a few days before poaching them. It only took 20 minutes before these babies became tender and smelling heavenly. The texture was even more intriguing, dense and meaty, satisfying every bite.

  • Rosiepigs

    This is an old blog post, but I’m looking for help: I poached two quince last night in a sugar/honey/sherry syrup with some spices. They came out rather uninteresting, and not really rose-colored at all. I had to cut the fruit into chunks so they cooked in much less than 2 hours, but are tender now. Maybe they weren’t ripe yet? I had left them to golden for a week, but read varying reports as to how long they needed to ripen off-tree, and I was impatient. Was that the only problem?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      It is my understanding that quinces need a long poaching time to develop their flavor and color — maybe yours didn’t cook long enough?

  • nrggirl

    Ironically, I got quince two weeks ago in my farm share and wasn’t sure what to do with them…until I saw your post. I didn’t actually think they were much worse than say, sunchokes, to peel – and they did smell AMAZING on the counter for a week (and everyone at our Halloween party thought they were a Halloween prop with the moldy-like fuzz). I made the Almond Cake with the poached quince and it was unbelievable. Thank you!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Happy to hear it all turned out to your taste!

  • emma

    Rosiepigs, the same thing happened to me. I got some beautiful looking quince about ten days ago and let them sit out until they were yellow, but not that fragrant. Tonight I poached them with a vanilla bean and some rosewater for three and a half hours.
    They are a weird fleshy pink color, not the gorgeous ruby red everyone keeps talking about.They’re starting to fall apart so I don’t think I need to keep poaching. I don’t know what I did wrong. What a disappointment!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’m not sure what may be the problem as this has never happened to me, but if the quinces weren’t fragrant, it is likely that they weren’t quite ripe. Maybe they were picked too soon and never ripened properly? Or perhaps they’re just a different variety of quinces that doesn’t smell or color in the same way?

  • Anita

    You don’t need to peel quinces. I’ve been making and eating poached quinces for years with the peel on (well-washed, cored, fuzz rubbed away). Quick and delicious. Peel tastes fine.

  • Gail Gochin

    My landlord has just passed by asking if I was interested in some ‘mele cotogne’, quinces! My mom used to make delicious quince jam in South Africa when I was young. So, I’m going try them out! I’ve been given about 10 biggies!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Lucky you! Let us know what you end up making with them.

  • kelly kell

    I was just wondering if it is possible to can these? Any tips for canning poached quinces?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’ve never tried it so I can’t offer tips, but I’m sure it’s possible to can these.

  • tal

    Bay Area: I found a big bag of quinces for 99 cents at Temescal Produce Market at 51st and Telegraph in Oakland! That place is amazing and so are these quinces!

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