Quinces are famed for a heady perfume that can fill an entire room. When raw, the fruit’s hard, dry, cream-colored flesh has a powerfully astringent flavor so its not eaten raw. Once cooked, the quince softens, turns a deep rose-pink color and becomes
even more flowery in fragrance.
Like other tree fruits, quinces come to market during the autumn and winter. Supported by sweet ingredients to temper its astringency, the fruit marries well with lamb, pork, poultry, and game in slow-cooked stews and roasts. Quince stars in jams and jellies and also often contributes its high-pectin setting power to other, softer fruits. Cooked down to a concentrated fruit paste, it becomes membrillo, a classic Spanish accompaniment to aged cheese.
Select large, smooth-skinned fruits that retain their pale, fuzzy coating, and emanate a flowery fragrance. Avoid any with bruises or soft spots. Buy quinces before they ripen fully, while they are still quite firm and their skin is just beginning to turn from green to gold.
Store at room temperature, then refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.
Do not wash off the fuzz coating on the surface of the quinces until just before using. The hard flesh of the quince will resist smaller knives. You may need to use a hefty cleaver along with extra effort and care to cut the fruit. Remove the core and seeds unless you’re planning to strain the fruit.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by Tasha DeSerio & Jodi Liano (Weldon Owen, 2010).