Do you even know what quince is? I didn’t know much about it before I wrote this blog post. It sounds very British and definitely something that would be served at an English tea party whilst playing a game of croquet during a subtle day in April. Sorry I’m dreaming of warmer temperatures and lighter evenings as I write this on a hazy December morning.
If you have heard of quince, you probably know it as a jam or jelly, as quince preservatives are very popular, especially paired with certain foods. But there is more to quince than first meets the eye, and it doesn’t need to be boiled down to a spread to be used well.
What is quince?
Quince is part of the apple and pear family, and it is noticeable as it resembles the shape of both. They have a golden yellow skin and are filled with pectin, which is why they are an excellent fruit for jellies and jams. Quince is one of the few fruits that is grown between October and December in the UK, so it’s a great one to grow in the winter months when the rest of your harvest is waiting for warmer days.
What separates quince from apples and pears is the taste and texture. Unlike its brothers and sisters, quince has a harsh and bitter flesh which can be quite unappealing when eaten raw, therefore it is often cooked. However, when ripe and cooked, this fruit provides an exquisite fragrant smell and flavour that pairs perfectly with rose. You’ve probably seen quince in the supermarket before and mistook it for a pear, or possibly a yellow coloured plum, but if you haven’t used one as part of a recipe yet, now’s the time.
Ways to cook quince
That rich pectin content makes quince excellent for preservatives, but it would be a shame to limit this fruit to being spread on toast and scones. There are plenty of other options available that you may not have thought of.
Think of it like baked pear. Because quince is harsh raw, the flesh softens when cooked and develops into a beautiful golden rose colour. Slice the fruit in two and bake at 180 degrees celsius on a baking tray lined with parchment paper for 40-50 minutes until soft inside and slightly charred on the outside. Serve with a sprinkle of brown sugar and vanilla ice cream.
Yeah, I had to Google this one too. You’ve probably since this before on a charcuterie board and looked at it in a very questionable way, I know I have. Membrillo is a paste, usually in the shape of a small square made from quince pulp. Sometimes it is covered in sugar and resembles a sweet. You usually find it served with cheeses and meats, it pairs particularly well with manchego cheese.
Fruit and meat isn’t uncommon, especially lamb that pairs exceptionally well with so many of them. One you might not have considered though is quince. In a tagine, the couple work to perfection as the fragrant flavour of quince balances out the meat. It is best served with couscous.
I’ve given you the perfect tip for creating a more sophisticated Christmas dinner this year. Serving your cheese with homemade membrillo will more than impress your guests. And if you want to change things up, possibly a lamb tagine for dinner? Or have I gone too far?