Cooking with Quinces | My sister Debbie has recently relocated to a beautiful rural property with her family, in a “tree change” that she has been looking forward to for some time. By way of welcome, one of her neighbours dropped in a bundle of beautiful fruit and vegetables that he grows on his own property. Among the bounty were some quinces. Having never used quinces before, Deb passed them on to me. In actual fact, I have never used quinces before either! But this seems like the perfect opportunity to try.
Grown since ancient times, the quince is related to apples and pears.
Having eaten and loved Maggie Beer’s quince paste on cheese platters, I decided that’s what I would make. Or try to make, anyway.
In preparation I spent quite a lot of time reading about quinces. They are in season in Australia between late March and May. They are very hard and can’t be eaten raw – I wouldn’t recommend it anyway. I had a little taste and it was pretty gross. The smell is quite beautiful though – I have read many descriptions of it but to me, the uncut fruit smells like a very ripe pineapple.
I cook them with the skin on to maximise the pectin | Beautiful pale golden quince puree!
Apparently the pectin content is highest in the skin, so I am going to leave the skin on to make my quince paste. I cut, core and chop the four quinces, and simmer in a pot of water for about 45 minutes until it is very soft. I then puree the quince pieces, skin and all, and measure the puree. There are five cups of puree, which I put into the bowl of my slow cooker with five cups of sugar.
Then I turn the slow cooker onto high and cook for five hours with the lid off. I need to stir it quite frequently, as it forms a skin, but not as much as I would have to tend to it if I were cooking it on the stove top.
The colour change as it cooks is magical!
After a few hours the quince starts to become a beautiful deep pink colour. It becomes thick and almost “stretchy”. At this point I pour it into a square ceramic baking dish, greased and lined in the base with Glad Bake.
Many of the recipes I read require the baking dish to go into the oven at the lowest setting at this stage, to dry out the mixture and set it further. But mine seems quite thick and dry enough, so I just leave it out overnight to see what will happen in the morning.
In the morning it has cooled and set to a consistency that I am familiar with from eating other versions of quince paste, so I don’t worry about the oven part. It turns out of the dish beautifully and I trim the edges and cut it up into pieces that I think are good for a cheese platter.
There is enough quince paste for over a dozen cheese platters….I’ll be giving some away, but keeping some to use not just with cheese but as a glaze for roast lamb and even I think a sweetening ingredient in Indian curries.
Quinces can also be made into jelly or marmalade, or poached or roasted. Thanks to Deb’s neighbour for the lovely quinces and for a great learning experience!