This is such a lovely, simple recipe. When quinces are in season, I make batch after batch of this and keep it in the fridge to use as a quick dessert or to eat as a breakfast treat with a splodge of yoghurt. And what’s so good about them is that you can use them in other ways too. I sometimes chop up half a dozen slices and add them to an apple crumble – their fragrance permeates the apples and makes this homely pudding nothing short of wonderful. They’re also divine in tarts (try nestling them into an almond frangipane filling) or baked into a simple pound cake – it only needs a dusting of icing sugar to be quite perfect.
Serves 6 – 8
4 – 5 medium-sized quinces
Juice of 1 lemon
1 litre cool water
2 cups (440g) white sugar
Long spiral of lemon zest
Long spiral of mandarin or orange zest
1 vanilla bean, split
Thick cream, crème fraiche, or Greek-style yoghurt
Give the quinces a really good scrub in cool water to remove any greyish fuzz from the skin, then pat them dry. Just a gentle reminder before you start peeling: quinces are very hard (similar to pumpkin to handle), so you need be really careful when you’re working with them.
Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a large bowl of cold water and sit it nearby. Cut each quince into quarters. Peel and core each quarter, letting the skins and cores drop into a big stainless steel or enamelled saucepan. Cut the quince quarters lengthways into two or three slices, and put them into the bowl of lemon water. Don’t worry if the quince slices become quite oxidised and brownish – the lemon water prevents this to some extent, but once they’re cooked it disappears anyway.
Pour about a litre of cool water over the skins and cores in the pan. Bring them to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 30 minutes. After this time, strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, reserving the liquid and discarding the rest. Rinse out the pan. Measure out 3 cups (750 ml) of the quince peelings liquid, pour it back into the saucepan and place it over medium heat. Add the sugar, zests and vanilla bean to the saucepan and stir constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Drain the quinces and rinse them under cool water. Add them to the pan and bring the liquid to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low. Simmer the quinces, covered, for about 3 hours or until they’re rosy and tender, carefully turning the top ones once or twice during the cooking time so they cook evenly.
When they’re ready, remove the pan from the heat and leave them to cool in their syrup. Carefully transfer the quinces and syrup to a container with a tight fitting lid. Seal it and store the quinces in the fridge. They will keep well for at least 3 weeks.
To serve, spoon the quinces into a serving bowl and ladle the syrup over the top. They’re lovely with thick cream or crème fraiche.