Quinces are not indigenous to Australia, but this is the first place I’ve encountered them in the flesh (as it were). I heard many tales of them while I was living in England—cookbook authors in particular rhapsodizing about their scent and their quintessential, historic Englishness—but I never actually saw one, not even in a farmers’ market. Then, as my first summer in Australia turned to autumn, I walked into the supermarket one day and saw something that looked like a large, bulbous pear with five o’clock shadow. The sign over the bin said “Quince,” and I took one home to see what it was like.
Since our first fortuitous meeting, I’ve cooked and consumed several (you can’t eat them raw), and can report that they are delicious—like the very subtle and superior offspring of an apple and a pear. I’ve also found out a few other things: that they are not actually English, or not originally anyway (they’re from the Caucasus and really prefer a warmer climate, something they have in common with many other inhabitants of England); that they do not require a sledgehammer or a meat cleaver to open, as my sources led me to fear (although a heavy, sharp knife helps); that the longer you cook it, the redder the originally creamy flesh turns; and that they do in fact make your kitchen smell delightful.
And, since I am nothing if not loyal to my previous produce-aisle discoveries, I will also share that poached quince mixed with roasted rhubarb is fan-tastic in any of the iterations mentioned below.
This is really just a guideline for quantities, flavorings, and timings; fiddle around to get the texture and taste you like best.
2 quinces, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths (allocate a bit of time, patience, and muscle power for this)
3 Tbsp wine of your choice
1 cup water
2-3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp each lemon/lime zest and juice
Dash of salt
Sprinkling of any combination of the following spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer until the quinces are tender, which will take at least 30 minutes. Serve as is, over ice cream, alongside cake, mixed with yogurt and granola for breakfast….