quinces {poached}

It’s quince time again. We have a smallish tree out in Todi, and  I wait patiently for it to produce its meager few kilos of fruit each year. At least that’s what I’m thinking, until the fruit is actually ready to pick.

Then I remember that I don’t really like quince jam. And while my husband loves quince paste (cotognata in Italian, membrillo in Spanish) I think it’s a lot of effort for something that – in my humble opinion – is nothing to write home about. (although I’d like to try Judy’s,  if only because her molds are so cute)

A couple of years ago I made a quince crostata that I loved. But my friend Sienna had done the hard work already. She gave me a jar of quince jam, as well as freezing a bag full of cleaned slices of quince. (I told you she gives good food).

And it is hard work. That’s the problem. Quinces are one of those fruits that you can’t eat raw. They are as hard as wood and I feel like I risk losing a finger every time I try to cut one down the middle. And don’t even get me started on peeling them.

Getting back to this weekend. Our lopsided quince tree was leaning particularly heavy in one direction, so burdened was it with fruit. I had to do something, right? Since I’m on a semi diet (a girl’s got to try, right?) I didn’t want to make any fancy dessert, so decided to just poach them. That sounded somewhat easy, and certainly not so fattening.

It turned out to be super easy. Especially since I got my house guest Jane to do the cutting and peeling. Then all I had to do was throw them in a pot of water, along with some sugar, spices and a handful of raisins. Even though they started out hard as wood, after about 40 minutes they turned pillowy soft, like cooked apples or pears, but with more texture. And were incredibly delicious. The tart, almost tannic, flavor of the quinces really comes through in this recipe.

Now that I’ve found an easy recipe for quinces, I’ll be making them more often. Even though part of the recipe involves making sure I have a willing house guest on hand.

Poached Quinces

6 quinces
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

Get someone strong to cut the quinces into quarters, lengthwise. Get a house guest to peel and core each wedge, and then slice those sections into smaller pieces. Make sure you put the quinces in water as you clean them, so they don’t oxidate and turn dark.

Put the quinces and raisins in a pot, and fill with water until just covered. Add sugar according to how sweet you like it. 

Add the spices (I went heavy on the ginger, since I like it a bit spicy). Cloves would have been nice too, I think, but I didn’t have any.

Give it a good stir and cook at a gentle simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, or until tender. Keep checking, since you don’t want them to turn in to mush.

Serve warm or at room temperature. You can top it with mascarpone, which I would  have done if I wasn’t pretending to be on a diet.

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  1. says

    We have 2 quince trees in our garden in England. They produce huge harvests. We fail,every time, to persuade anyone to stay during quince harvest (no matter how quiet we are about ‘the time of year’…). Fingers and limbs are always somehow featuring at least a little on the casualty list (incredibly achy hands and arms if nothing else), but we love quince jelly, quince syrup (great drizzled on museli) and quince chutney. Will definitely try just poaching some next autumn…

  2. says

    At this time of year I love to pile a bunch of quince in a bowl and just allow it to perfume the room. It’s wonderful!

    Would you believe I’ve never cooked with them though? Thanks for the idea.

  3. says

    @trivia: I forgot about quince jelly! I made that one year, and loved it.
    @chefbea: I’ll let Jane know about the invitation.
    @thefarmgirlcooks: I have a pile of them on my dining table as we speak.

  4. Anonymous says

    Ladies, has none of you ever looked at an Italian recipe for cotognata? They say to cook the quince WHOLE and UNPEELED for a longish time, until the peel loosens and the quince softens. THEN you peel and cut them up and cook the pieces with sugar until they become a pulp of the right consistency. No severed fingers and no need to indenture houseguests into doing the hard labor.

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