J-Cat: What's a quince? Is it like a pear? Or an apple?
Faycat: Pretty much.
J-Cat: What do they look like?
Faycat: Like pears, crossed with apples...or like a carpenter.
Faycat: Shakespeare. Never mind.
How else to describe it? The major difference with quinces, of course, is that you can't actually eat them raw, so they are most commonly made into jams, jellies or pastes. If you've never tasted quince, try a jam, they are fantastic with cheese. The flavor of quince is also sort of pear-like and apple-like, but with this hint of lovely florals. Those florals give off an amazing perfume even before you start to cut the fruit. They also, magically, turn sort of pinkish as they cook. Purty.
The strange thing is that the reason I decided to make some poached quince last night was because I popped into my local crappy grocery store to get some paper towels and was shocked to see a great big pile of quince in the produce section. There were also some sad sad looking ramps, so I guess this store is making a small attempt at stocking rarer foods. Anyway, I didn't have much time to plan anything elaborate, so I simply poached the quince in syrup with cinnamon and vanilla, and served it warm over ice cream. It's pretty much the easiest dessert ever, except for the whole cutting and coring the quince thing. These suckers are hard. Recipe after the jump.
POACHED QUINCE WITH VANILLA AND CINNAMON
3 or 4 large quince, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
4 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean, split
In a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, heat the water and sugar over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Allow the syrup to come to a low boil, then remove from the heat and add the cinnamon and vanilla. Drop the quince wedges into the syrup as you prep them (they oxidize very quickly so you don't want the peeled fruit sitting out too long in the air). When all of the fruit is in the syrup, put the pot back on the burner and bring to a slow simmer for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until a knife easily inserts into the fruit. Serve warm with ice cream or yogurt, or let cool to room temperature and store in the fridge for up to a week.