The romantic legend of the quince goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Because apples were unknown in the ancient world, a quince might well have tempted Eve, and the golden apples of the Hesperides, given to Aphrodite by Paris of Troy, were probably quinces too.
This sensual fruit has a Chanel worthy perfume that alone is deserves a place on your kitchen bench, but the real seduction happens during the low and slow heat of cooking. The raw, untouched quince transforms from pale yellow and very tart with an inedible starchy texture into a silky pink blush, reaching its’ final climax with a deep wine hue.
The Quinces are poached and can be used in dishes much like stewed apple or poached pears.
Wash any pubescent residual fur off the skin, then cut and core like you would an apple, there’s no need to peel. Place your quince segments in a pot and cover with water and add the same fruit weight in sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for approx 3 hours for a rosy hue or 6 hours for a deeper blush. Leave the flavour pure or add some aromatics for extra fun.
Lemon zest, and cinnamon quills are light and pretty if you’re using the fruit on your morning cereal, making a crumble or an upside down cake, or serving with pancakes and lemon zested whipped cream.
Star anise, orange zest and ginger make pork pairing perfection, especially if your crackle is salty, your brown rice is steamed and your bok choy has been kissed with sesame oil.
Lemon thyme, smashed garlic and half honey, half sugar marries beautifully with roasted duck and kipfler potatoes with buttered garlic beans. Reduce some syrup even further and add a little to the seasoned pan juices for a beautiful sauce.
To Glaze a Ham reserve any of the poaching liquid from the quinces and reduce to a syrup or for a light drizzle over baked sweet potato, or pumpkin with a sprinkle of toasted walnuts.
Try a Salad Dressing to drizzle over a bitter leaf, goats chèvre, pistachio and orange salad. Add 1/4 cup syrup, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, a teaspoon of seeded mustard, sea salt and lots of pepper to a jam jar and shake vigorously.
Quince Paste If you’d like a little something delicious for your cheese platter, puree your quinces after the initial 3 hours of cooking time sans liquid and return to the pot. Cook the puree over a simmer pad to dim that heat even further for a further 3 – 4 hours until the puree becomes very thick and very dark. You’ll need keep a watchful eye over your pot and stir lovingly every 15 – 20 minutes. Turn the paste out into a lined tray and allow to completely cool. Once cooled slice and serve with a generous hunk of room temperature Manchengo, salted oat biscuits and toffee walnuts.
If all that watching and stirring and simmering is just way to much effort and you’re after an afternoon quickie then, I’m sorry. The voluptuous quince only responds to a slow caress. I promise though, it’s worth it .After your first mouthful, you’ll be wondering why you hadn’t indulged more often.
An edited version of this article can be seen at http://www.gourmandandgourmet.com.au