Quinces are an old-timey fruit that’s both delicious, and difficult to eat. That is, if you’re trying to eat it raw. Most people expect quinces to be easy to eat after they ripen a little, just like pears or apples. But then why are all the quince recipes calling for heat and poaching ?
Can you eat quince raw ? Why is it so astringent when you take a bit out of the raw flesh ? What does it even go with ? All this and more, coming right up.
Can you eat quince raw ?
No, quinces can’t be eaten raw because they are too tough and astringent, even after ripening. These fruits are meant to be cooked, always, since there are only two cultivars that can be eaten out of hand and those are very rare.
Raw quince is astringent, tough, requires 2-6 weeks to ripen, and is very tough to cut into. Once cooked, it releases more flavor, softens, and brings a strong, sweet aroma to anything you add it to.
Why is quince so astringent ?
Quinces are very astringent due to their high levels of tannins, which are antioxidants. They are why grape skins are so astringent, and they’re what makes a dry wine dry. Tannins are found in many other fruits, like most berries.
Those tannins go away as the fruit matures and ripens, as it happens with most fruits and vegetables. You can further reduce their levels by cooking the quinces. This strips the astringency, and releases the anthocyanins trapped within the tannins.
Read also: Why Do People Hate Raisins ?
Anthocyanins are natural pigments that range from blue to red, according to the pH of the food item. A basic pH yields a blue tinge, while an acidic pH yields a rosy-pink tinge.
This is why quinces turn orange-pink or red when you cook them. The anthocyanins react with the acidity in the fruit, and turn a light shade of red. As you cook down the quince, the color darkens. Partly due to loss of moisture, and partly because the anthocyanins develop better.
So if your quince jam or poaches quinces aren’t very colorful, you may need to cook them longer, or they may not be very pigmented to begin with.
Quick guide on cooking quinces
Alright, if you can’t eat quinces raw then you have to cook them. But how ? There are two main method, one is poaching and the other is marmalade.
Poaching is the most common use for fresh quinces, as it takes a little less time than marmalade, requires less skill, and can be used in more ways than one. So we’re going to discuss that.
Here’s what you’ll need to cook quince:
- quinces, freshly washed
- a good, strong, sharp chef’s knife with a good grip
- a paring knife to core the fruit, it’s very tough
- vegetable peeler
- cutting board
- moist towel
- a pot large enough to hold water and the cut up quinces
- any flavorings you like, like vanilla, star anise, lemon rind, etc
Start by peeling the quinces as best you can. You can leave the skins on, they won’t harm you, but they cook a bit better without the skins. If you see any fuzz on the sins, simply rub it off. It won’t hurt you but it doesn’t feel great.
Once the quinces are peeled, place them on a cutting board with a moist towel underneath. make sure it’s not slipping all over the counter. Quinces are as difficult to cut through as a pumpkin or butternut squash, be very careful. Cut them into quarters.
Then take your paring knife and remove the cores as best you can. These are even tougher than re rest of the fruit, so you may want to cut a V into the quince and be done with it.
Finally, rinse the peeled and cored quarters, and place them in a pot of fresh, cold water. Make sure there’s enough water to cover them about an inch, and another inch left on top empty. Add any flavorings you like, and add your sugar. Bring to a boil, and once it’s boiling reduce to a simmer.
Simmer for 40-50 minutes with a lid on, or until tender. You can let them have more texture by not simmering them as long.
Read Also: Can You Eat Raw Cauliflower?
What do quinces go with ?
Quinces are sweet once cooked, and have a deep, floral aroma that can easily overpower anything if you add too much. It should be paired with another string flavor like dark meat, earthy veggies like beets and potatoes.
In terms of sweet treats, you can pair quinces with apples and pears, but only add a small amount of quince because the flavor is very strong. Or, you can use this to your advantage, and use the apples or pears to stretch the quinces out.
You can also serve quinces poached and then glazed with caramel, or you can make it part of the most amazing pie anyone’s ever tasted. Since quince has a vague citrus flavor, it will go beautifully with anything of the sort.
A common pairing with quinces is almonds and walnuts. All nuts go well with quince, but it pairs even better with these two. Hazelnut is overpowered by quince, but pecan may work.
Oh, and why not swap the cranberry sauce for poached quince for Thanksgiving dinner ? Or at least do half cranberry, half quince.
So in short, you can pair quinces with basically anything you’d pair apples or pears with. As long as you cook them, you can flavor them and get them nice and tender. This way you get a really delicious, sweet pairing that will go great with anything.
These fruits are not easy to find, and when you do find them they’re not many in number and they feel more like a sneaky treat. If you ever get your hands on some quinces, make sure to cook and preserve them.