Quince is an ancient relative of the modern apple and pear. More popular in medieval times, the quince has been rumored to be the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden. It’s said that Paris awarded Aphrodite a quince in exchange for Helen, setting the course of events that lead to the Trojan war in motion.
Amazingly, I got mine at Fred Meyer, a popular supermarket chain in the Pacific Northwest. I mean that, I’d never seen them for sale as whole fruit before, not even at the markets I go to for specialty produce.
Before this, I’d only ever had quince as a jelly or paste known as membrillo. Quince has a tough exterior that requires cooking before eating and it’s high in pectin, which makes it a natural to be served as such. My first introduction to quince was at the cafe at the Spanish Table, where the vegetarian sandwich was membrillo and manchego. This is still my favorite way to have it. If you find membrillo or quince jelly around, buy it and serve it with manchego on a cheese plate.
There are lots of quince poaching recipes around. I based mine off Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe from his book Plenty. His recipe is more complex than what I had on hand, so I improvised to the following and it turned out great. Though I wished I had the red wine he used because the color would be rosy instead of brown.
Poached quince and syrup:
- 2 quinces
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 15 peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
Peel the quince and slice the fruit into wedges. Boil the water, sugar and spices, whisk to dissolve sugar and turn heat to low. Add quince slices and simmer for an hour. Cool completely before using.
You can use the poached quince in a salad, as a dessert topping or my favorite way, with manchego cheese.