The Perils of Poaching Quinces

Last spring I was thrilled to discover that my Adelaide garden held a quince tree. I had never even seen a quince before. The spring blossoms were exquisite to look at and smelled wonderful. Eagerly I anticipated the day when I would have the opportunity to cook the fruit.

Well, that day arrived last weekend, and I did not find the experience of preparing poached quinces very appealing at all.

To begin with, quinces are rock hard and I sliced my hand twice trying the peel and core them.

I prepared a simple sugar syrup of one part white sugar to two parts water, which I simmered until the sugar dissolved. I then added a few drops of vanilla, a squeeze of lemon juice, and my quartered quinces.

My recipe suggested that I should allow the quinces to cook in a sealed, non-reactive pot (I used an enamelled cast iron pan) for between four to eight hours in a slow to moderate oven.

The result
: The quinces changed from pale lemon in colour to a dark, rosy red. The flavour was a little like pears except stronger. The texture was slightly gritty. Nobody particularly liked them.

The Verdict: I don't think I would ever plant a quince tree as the fruit is awkward to prepare and requires long cooking. They can't be eaten raw. I would rather grow fruit that can be eaten and cooked more easily, especially in a suburban garden where there is limited space.

I am keen to try making quince paste but I have heard that the bubbling mixture can cause nasty burns. I didn't know fruit could be such a health hazard!

Have you ever cooked with quinces? Is there anything I should have done differently?

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