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Quince: Kitchen Basics


Harvest quinceCooked quince has a sweet, delicate musky aroma with a flavor somewhere between an apple and a pear.

Quince is often used in jams, jellies, and preserves. You can also use quince in cobblers or tarts or add it cubed to beef stew or roasting poultry.

The quince is not good eating raw. Give it a try, you will find it very dry and astringent.

Most quince recipes call for prepared quince pulp or juice. That means you will peel, core, and chunk the quince then boil and simmer it for 45 to 60 minutes before straining the pulp for juice and reserving the pulp.

If you want to try the quince alone, you can quarter, core and pare it, sprinkle it with sugar (2 tablespoons for each quince), add ½ inch of water to a baking dish and bake for 2 hours at 300ºF until tender and deep red. Serve this dish cold.

The quince was once as popular as the apple or pear, but that was when people made their own preserves and time in the kitchen was not the expensive commodity it is today.

The quince is asymmetrically round and about the size of a squat short-necked pear with bright yellow skin that can be bumpy and lumpy and look a bit beat up. Sometimes quince skin is covered with light fuzz. Its yellowish-white flesh is hard, dry, and tart. The flesh turns light pink to rose red when cooked. The average quince will weigh ½ to 1 pound (.25-.5 kg).

The quince tree can grow up to 20 feet tall. It is a deciduous tree with dark green leaves that have whitish undersides. The tree has a gnarled branching pattern. The tree blooms early in spring and the fruit is ready for harvest in the fall.

Local Season. The peak harvest season for quinces is from late summer to early winter.

Choose. Select large, firm, pale yellow quinces free of blemishes. As the quince ripens it turns from green to yellow. Avoid quinces that are soft, shriveled, or bruised.

Amount. One pound of quinces (about 3 large quinces) will yield about 1½ cups pulp and 2 cups juice.

Store. Quince will keep for several weeks if refrigerated. If stored at room temperature, the quince will deteriorate after 1 week. Wrap quinces in paper towels to avoid bruising.

The quince, like the pear, does not ripen well on the tree. To ripen a quince, place it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight for a few days and turn it occasionally.

A whole quince will not freeze well. Puréed quince will freeze with or without sugar.

Prepare. Before using, rinse quince lightly to remove the felt-like fuzz. Peel the quince with a vegetable peeler or knife before using in jams, preserves, desserts, or savory dishes. Scoop out the seed cavity using a melon baller.

To avoid discoloration once peeled, place peeled quince in water with lemon juice until ready to cook.

Cook. Quince must be cooked before eating. Quince can be baked, poached, roasted, sautéed, or stewed. After coring and peeling, cook quince as you would an apple. Cooked quince has a sweet, delicate, slightly musky flavor. Quince flesh turns salmon-colored after cooking.

Serve. Use quince to make jam, jelly, marmalade, compote, syrup, and wine.

  • Add quince to apple pies to add a spicy flavor.
  • Add quince to cobblers, crisps, or tarts.
  • Serve quince with pork, mutton, and poultry.
  • Add quince to meat stew or roast with poultry.
  • Stuff quince halves with spiced ground meat mixes.
  • Quince cooked with sugar and cooled will form a firm gel called quince cheese or quince paste that can be sliced.

Flavor partners. Quince has a flavor affinity for apples, bay leaf, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, honey, nutmeg, raspberries, and vanilla.

Nutrition. The quince is a good source of potassium, vitamin C, and copper.

Quince facts and trivia. The quince is one of the world’s oldest fruits and native to modern-day Iran. Some say the quince was Eve’s forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

Quince is used for baking and making preserves because of its high pectin level. Pectin is a mucilaginous substance that acts as a thickening agent. The word marmalade comes from the Portuguese word marmelad which means “quince jam”.

The botanical name of quince is Cydonia oblonga.

Also of interest:

How to Plant, Grow, Prune, and Harvest Quince

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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