Quince – a slightly odd name for a slightly odd looking fruit. Don’t let the name or looks fool you though, this fruit is something to be treasured. It may not be love at first sight, but when properly prepared, this ancient fruit becomes an experience like no other- and this honey poached quince recipe is the ideal way to magnify the hidden glory of this fruit.
My first experience with quince was in Greece. Each evening we would go on a leisurely stroll in the countryside of the island. On one of our evening strolls, my father-in-law spotted a fruit tree that I was not familiar with. He decided to grab one of the unusual looking fruits and seemed very excited about his discovery. “Kυδώνι: key-thOH-nee” he said to me, teaching me the fruit’s name in Greek before he revealed that it was quince. While I had heard of quince back in America, I had never had the opportunity to taste it.
My father-in-law was beyond giddy with his find and began to recollect his memories of eating quince as a child in Northern Greece. He explained that he and his siblings would eat them raw off the tree, a very unusual practice, but for them it was food, because they were very poor, his mother did not have the money to buy sugar or honey to prepare the quince in the traditional Greek manner. We walked home that evening with only one quince fruit (considering that my father-in-law had actually picked it off of someone else’s property). That lone fruit was left for my father-in-law to enjoy & reminisce- while for me, it only became a memory and an insight into my father-in-law’s childhood in Greece.
The other day here in Roseville, Ca- I had my own “κυδώνι” experience. Walking our dogs in the afternoon, we ended up at a park that we normally do not frequent. To my surprise, out of the corner of my eye I saw the same unusual looking fruit that my father-in-law was so excited to discover that day back in Greece. Abandoned and forgotten in between two fences, the sight of this quince tree left me overjoyed. We harvested every last one of them and walked home with at least 10 lbs of bounty. I washed off the cloak of dusty fuzz that covered each fruit to reveal their beautiful golden hue and their absolutely divine aroma. The smell alone was enough to leave me in awe, our entire home was filled with their utterly unique fragrance- I am at a loss for words to even try to describe what they smell like. What I was the most excited for though, was the opportunity to prepare the quince because they are not commonly found at grocery stores or even farmers markets here, so to find an entire tree was beyond a blessing. Not to mention, I could not wait to bring some to my father-in-law.
Our bounty was plentiful enough that we would be able to use the quince in several different ways. The first way I chose to prepare them was by making this simple and beautiful honey poached quince. Before the advent of modern processing that made the way for refined sugars, honey was the sweetener of the ancient Mediterranean world. Honey is the traditional sweetener used in ancient Greek cooking and it is also the primary sweetener we use in our modern kitchen.
The quince take a long simmer in a bath of water, honey, lemon and vanilla. When they emerge from their sweet soak, they have turned the most amazing rosy hue and their once hard and tough texture has turned tender with an intriguing flavor that no other fruit can quite compare to. Thinly sliced and eaten over thick Greek yogurt or made into a tarte tatin, honey poached quince are something we will look forward to every fall, as long as we can get our hands on some quince.
- 6 large or 8 medium quince
- 6 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups honey
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
- Add water, honey, lemon juice and vanilla bean to a medium stock pot set over medium heat, stir contents until honey is dissolved
- Peel, quarter and core the quince, slipping each prepared section into the poaching liquid as you go to keep the quince from browning
- Once all of the quince sections are in the poaching liquid and the liquid is simmering, turn the heat to medium low, to gently simmer the quince
- Simmer the quince rotating them occasionally, until they are rosy and can be easily pierced with a knife
- Remove from heat and let them cool to room temperature - once cooled, store quince in their poaching liquid in a covered container in the refrigerator
adapted from David Lebovitz