Words by Vicki Ravlich-Horan, Images Brydie Thompson
Quince, a hard, yellow, knobbly pear like fruit which is unlikely to be found in the supermarket. Inedible raw, the tough fruit magically transforms into a glorious rose colour with a delicate flavour when cooked. Perhaps because of the effort involved to release the fruit’s inner beauty it has fallen out of favour, and the best sources for your quince supply is from road side stalls or friends who have inherited a tree. I stumbled on some gems in the honesty box at Woodlands Country Estate.
Originally from Turkey, it is little wonder the quince, with its subtle perfume and flavour, is paired with both sweet and savoury dishes.
Poached quinces are delicious served with custard or a dollop of mascarpone.
2 litres of water
3 cups sugar
1‒2 cinnamon sticks*
6‒8 quince, peeled
Depending on how you are going to use them, either quarter or half the quinces. I don’t bother coring them at this point as raw quinces are very hard, making coring a dangerous exercise! Instead I wait until they are poached and I can remove the core easily. The core is also a great source of pectin, which aids in the setting of your jelly you can make from the poaching liquid.
In a large pot dissolve the sugar in the water before adding the cinnamon, lemon (cut in half) and quince.
Simmer on low for 2 hours. At this stage the quince should be soft and would have turned a gorgeous rose colour.
*Change up the aromatics to suit. Star anise and vanilla beans are great with quince too.
Turn the poaching liquid into a versatile jelly by continuing to simmer it for approximately another 2 hours. The liquid will reduce to approximately 1 cup. Test it is ready by placing a spoonful on a chilled saucer, after a minute if, when you run your finger through the jelly, it wrinkles leaving a line where your finger was, it is ready.
Pour the jelly into a sterilised jar (250‒300ml) and seal immediately.
NOTE: If you want to make quince jelly but are not fussed about the poached quinces, you can be less fussy with your quince prep. Simply wash the quinces and cut into similar sized pieces. Don’t worry about removing the cores and just cut out any black spots.