What the Quince?
Before a fateful interaction at the Park Slope Co-op last year, my knowledge of Quince was limited to jarred, jammed, jellied and spreadable fruit-stuff. My research has uncovered that the reason for this prevalence is that there is a remarkable amount of naturally occurring pectin in quince, which translates well to preserving. But I digress.
I actually did not know what a quince was, how to cook it, or how it grows. I had the vague idea, having once had a passed hors d’oeuvres of puffed pastry topped with Quince and Roquefort, that it would be a sweet berry. Like a cousin of a blackberry or black currant rather than its real relative, the mighty, meaty pear.
I work a once-a-month shift as check-out clerk in Park Slope Co-op. Its a fabulously tidy mess of all things local, organic, and probably pretentious. But I love that place. And the price, selection, and quality is unbeatable in this neighborhood. It’s a hive, filled with foody-politico Brooklynites, and redolent of bulk spices and well-priced cheese. It is one of the largest Co-op in the country with more than 15,000 members, but one member grabbed my attention that day. She was wearing a pair of Warby Parkers (before they were cool), and was talking about introducing a new piece of food to her kids every week.
This hefty green thing waddles unevenly toward the scale.
“Quince,” she says. “It’s amazing. Bake it on 250 all afternoon and your house will smell like heaven.” I never got around to making one last year, but I haven’t stopped thinking about that damn little fruit. Once Quince rolls back around to being in season in New York, I will buy one and perfume my house like Elysium.
I have now done my research, and I’m on the look-out (disclosure, it is now November 1st.) Quince is apparently a tough little bugger to prepare. It’s hard, spongy, and difficult to peel, core and quarter (which must be done before cooking.) It’s also not grown commercially, so it often show up with blemishes and other “unsightly” symptoms of its organic-ness. Just cut away anything you don’t want. It seems a little high maintenance, however, once baked or poached, it will develop a satiny texture and its cooking liquid becomes mellifluous and thick. Add a few to homemade applesauce for a tart flavor. Serve with oatmeal or granola for breakfast (with a pour-over of that incredible syrup), or alongside a savory meat dish (pork, duck, chicken), or with roasted squash… endless possibilities.
– 7 cups water
– 1 split vanilla bean (or cloves, star anise, or cinnamon sticks. Pick one, maybe two so as not to overpower the fruit)
-Juice from 1 lemon (appx 2 tbsps)
-1 cup sugar (or alternative sweetener, but quince is tart so the sugar is necessary)
-6-8 prepped quince (see below)
-Mix water, vanilla bean (or other spices), lemon juice & sugar in a large dutch oven or other non-reactive pot. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar, over a medium-high heat.
– Meanwhile, carefully peel, core, and quarter the quince, then add to the pot. (You can prep this before by keeping them in a covered dish of lemon-water mixture to prevent oxidizing.)
– Cover the pot loosely (with lid or a “parchment lid“), and bring up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour or until the fruit is easily pierced with the tip of your paring knife. Serve warm, or store in their liquid in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (liquid can store for longer on its own. It’s awesome poured over almost anything or mixed into cocktails.)