Posts Tagged ‘quince’

Quinces: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

February 7, 2010

This essay originally appeared Nov. 9, 2009, at Examiner.com.

Quince. For the longest time, I really had no idea what to do with this enigmatic fruit. It’s enjoyed in many other parts of the world and, while it grows quite nicely here in a number of regions of the United States, it seems only slightly more common than, say, durian or pitaya.

Quince is lovely to look at (it also sports a fuzzy outer skin not dissimilar to peaches) and has a fresh, almost citrusy scent. When raw, it’s largely inedible. No, let me take that back: it is inedible. Hard and grainy, it’s a bit like biting into a very under-ripe pear that’s been dusted with alum, but not as appealing. In the English-speaking world, someone in a difficult predicament finds themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. Turks, on the other hand, find themselves eating quinces.

Florin Bleiceanu, Stock.xchng

The source of legendary problems and a nice addition to apple pie.

Once quite common in Britain, the quince fell out of favor but seems to be enjoying a minor revival. It never really caught on in the United States, although the late Edna Lewis wrote that they were once grown “on every homestead in the South.” Perhaps it’s a matter of convenience: unlike apples or pears, of which it appears to be a cross (but is not) you simply can’t just pull one from the tree and eat it. One wonders what it was that convinced the first person to try quince to persevere.

According to legend, Paris gave Aphrodite a quince – the golden apple – because she was so beautiful (actually, it was because she bribed him which lead, eventually, to that whole mess with Helen of Troy). Somewhere else, I’ve run across mention of quince being the fruit that caused so much trouble for Adam and Eve; there’s a pattern evolving here.

So, for all the terrible things I’ve just said about quince and for all the trouble they seem to cause, I should state that quince cooks up beautifully. It is delicious, especially when cooked much as one would apples or pears, for that matter. It also takes considerably longer to cook than either apples or pears and it’s a good idea to sauté them even before baking them into pies. I sautéed them in butter with apples and cinnamon and sugar just a week or so ago and served it over pancakes, and taking a cue from a Turkish recipe, I cooked quince with pomegranate juice, garlic, shallots, and cinnamon as a sauce for lamb. I recall another recipe that pairs them with beef, but I can’t find it at the moment.

Quinces keep forever – I just cooked one that had been hanging about for the past month in a fruit bowl in the kitchen. They’re great sources of Vitamin C and, unsurprisingly, fiber. They smell good. I rather like the sound of them, too. Now that we’re into November, we should have them around for a few more weeks but only a for a few more weeks. If only Paris had waited until winter.