"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Juliet may have been talking about Romeo, but this statement might as well have been applied to the quince. This dense, pithy and astringent fruit is similar in appearance to a golden delicious apple, tastes like a bitter intersection of apples and pears, but is related to neither fruit. Believe it or not, the quince is related to the well-loved and thorny rose.
Quince is rarely eaten raw because of its bitter, astringent and dry flesh. However, knowing this didn't keep me from stopping my husband when he took a large bite out of curiosity. He spat it out immediately, and looked at me incredulously. I rather thought it was funny.
When cooked, this fruit is magically transformed. The pithy flesh softens and bitterness melts away, revealing beautiful ambrosial flavors reminiscent of pears poached in red wine with provocative nuances of ripe stone fruits, sweet spices and rosy floral notes. Cooking quince extracts the fruit's naturally high pectin content, making it an ideal candidate for jams and jellies. In this recipe, the seeds and core of the quince, which are particularly high in pectin, are also utilized by wrapping in a cheesecloth and simmering with the quince flesh to help solidify the jam.
When choosing a quince, rely on your nose to tell you which ones are ripe. Pick those that are fragrant with a lemony-yellow exterior. The aromas from this antique fruit should be strong and reminiscent of tropical fruits, notably pineapple.
This is a recipe dedicated to Sherry Page, who grows quince among many other beautiful fruits and vegetables in her bountiful garden. The first photo in this post is a bowl of gorgeous quince fruit freshly picked from a tree growing in her front yard. In addition to growing her own delicious food, Sherry faithfully visits and supports local farmers in northern California, searching and gathering the best produce she can find.
As a culinary instructor, Sherry has garnered a tremendous reputation over the years with Culinary Getaways, where she hosts amazing food events, sharing her extensive knowledge and passion of cuisines local to Napa Valley, Paris, Provence and Tuscany. A recent review of a Napa Culinary Getaway by an attendee says it all. Sherry has demonstrated enormous love, generosity, and creativity in her approach to food, which I admire tremendously. For that reason, I consider Sherry a foodie soul sister.
QUINCE ROSE JAM
Each quince is different, for that reason I recommend starting with two cups of sugar and adjusting to taste. Riper quince will have the most pronounced flavors and aromas but if you are making jam or jelly, throw a few green ones in the batch, they'll add a high pectin content.
- 5 large quince or 2 1/2 pounds
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- lemon zest from one lemon
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 teaspoons rose water (optional)
- To prepare the quince, rinse and peel the fruit, taking care to save the core and seeds. Because the flesh is quite hard and dry, you may find it easier to quarter the quince prior to peeling. Cut the quince into small chunks, diced or chopped, the smaller the size the faster the quince will cook. Gather the cores and seeds and tie the bundle securely in a cheesecloth.
- In large pot, preferably enameled cast iron, add all of the ingredients, except for the vanilla bean and rose water. With the vanilla bean, split open the pod and scrape out the vanilla seeds, and place pod and seeds into the pot. Simmer on medium-low for 2-3 hours. When the quince is ready, the flesh will become a rosy orange color. Allow the quince to cool to room temperature or let it sit overnight.
- Once the cooked quince is cooled, remove the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and bundle of seed, and set aside. Using a hand blender or food processor, blend the pulp and liquid together until the texture is creamy. Taste the quince jam. If you feel that it could use more sugar or honey by the tablespoon, blend and repeat until you're satisfied with the level of sweetness. Return the cinnamon stick, seeds and quince jam to the pot (if using a food processor), simmer for 1-2 hours or until the quince jam reaches a desired consistency. Keep in mind that the jam will thicken when cool. Add the rose water, if using, in the last 10 minutes of cooling, so that the delicate floral flavors remain intact. Allow the quince jam to cool down. Remove the cinnamon stick and cheese cloth.
- Store in sterilized jars.