Quince belongs to the rose family and is closely related to apples and pears. Resembling a large, lumpy yellow pear with skin that may be smooth or covered with a woolly down depending on variety. With a strong, aromatic fragrance, a musky-wild, tropical-like perfume when raw, quince has an astringent and sour taste but, when cooked, becomes rich and candy-like with a deep apricot colour and floral honeyed flavours.
In ancient Greece, brides consumed quince to ensure pleasantly smelling perfumed lips. The term marmalade was originally quince jam; “marmelo” is the Portuguese word for quince.
Inedible raw due to its high tannin content, quince requires cooking to both soften the flesh and make the fruit less tart.
Poached, roasted or stewed, quince is best cooked low and slow. Whether in a sweet or savoury dish, a little sugar or honey makes quince a lot more palatable. Enhance your quince by sprinkling some spice such as cinnamon, cloves or five spice.
High in pectin, quince makes a great jelly, jam, or paste membrillo), which can be served on toast, bagels or with cheese like Manchegoor a sharp blue.
Poach quince in wine and vanilla beans for a simple, yet elegant dessert and serve with vanilla ice cream or custard. Or stew with other autumnal fruit like apples and pears for a lovely compote, a great seasonal breakfast menu special with porridge or pancakes, or add to cakes or muffins for seasonal baked goods for your cabinet.
Quince cuts through fat, so use wisely with pork, lamb or beef. Play with Moroccan flavours with a quince and lamb tagine, or slow roast some pork belly on top of a bed of quince instead of the traditional apple.
This old-fashioned fruit was once common in orchards, but the labour-intensive prep has seen
it fall out of favour.
The common quince (Cydonia oblonga) originally from Asia, is grown commercially in small quantities in New Zealand. It grows in cooler subtropical areas to cold temperate regions. Being similar to apples and pears, the majority of orchards operate out of the greater Bay of Plenty region.