This is the first in a series on less common or overlooked fruits and vegetables.
I have a love affair with this fruit that is second to none. What's a quince? It's a hard yellow fruit with an uneven fuzz something like a pear, something like an apple and yet entirely different. They grow in temperate parts of the world including here in British Columbia and originated in Asia. It was very popular in ancient Rome, as well as Iran, Portugal, Greece and France. Indeed it is said that the first Marmalade was made with quince, not Seville Oranges as the word Marmalade is derived from the Portuguese marmelo which means Quince.
This is a fruit to which time and patience rewards. They are very hard, dry and tannic when raw and if you bit into one in its raw state you would never again. Leave them in a bowl in your home and they will give off the most amazing of fragrances, both fruity and floral, smelling partly of ripe apple and pear but with much more complexity. Indeed Victorian's are supposed to have used them as room or closet fresheners. I keep mine in a bowl until they no longer imbue my room with their perfume and then I get to work preserving their glories.
The Quince is high in natural pectin which is why it is most commonly used in jams and jellies. It poaches like a dream(future recipe on that coming soon) and can be easily added to any apple or pear desserts such as pies, crisps or cakes. Indeed that is the best place to cozy up to this beauty. Buy a couple and start experimenting. It can also be served alongside meats, stuffed with meat and spices like in Morocco, added to chutneys and mincemeat, made into a paste to have with cheese, and even infused in Vodka for the most beautiful liqueur.
So this is your Quince Primer. If you know anyone who has a tree, ask for some. They are generally regarded as very easy to grow, but since most people aren't familiar with them I would imagine anyone with a tree would be happy to find a home for them. Otherwise keep your eye out for them at Farmers Markets and Natural Food stores or enjoy the idea of them here on your computer screen. Soon I'll be poaching a batch with tips on flavours that complement them as well as what to do with all the parts of the fruit and liquid.