Give quince a chance
There are a number of ingredients that carry a certain cachet among food professionals and amateurs, before eventually achieving fame among the population at large. From the butcher’s counter, short ribs are an obvious example. In the vegetable kingdom, a case might be made for celeriac. And as far as fruits go, the quince deserves wider recognition.
Quinces are a member of the same family as apples and pears, but not nearly as easily found in Canada’s food scene. I had to order these fruits through a local market, although I’ve also found them in previous years at a farmers’ market stall. One barrier to their acceptance is no doubt the fact that they need to be cooked in order to be edible. Raw, they’re tough and bitter (and some are coated with fuzz), but when cooked and sweetened, they show their softer side. Some varieties are highly aromatic when raw – so much so that they are reputed to have been used to perfume whole rooms in the past – while others are a little more reserved. But they all develop complex aromas when cooked, with floral and tropical fruit notes; roses and pineapple are frequently evoked.
Because they must be cooked, quinces can lend themselves to both sweet and savoury preparations. (One of these days, I’ll get around to making Paula Wolfert’s tagine of lamb with quinces and honey.) These particular fruits, however, are destined for a quince upside-down cake.
Have you ever eaten a quince?