Quince: old-world fruit, new-world possibilities

Ever heard of a Quince? Although you many not be familiar with this hard, apple-like fruit, ancient Greeks and Romans valued it greatly. Perhaps one of the oldest cultivated fruits, Quince has long been considered an emblem of love, happiness and fertility. Frieda’s Specialty Produce is pleased to bring fresh Quince to supermarkets around the United States.

About the size of a large apple with a round or pear shape, Quince is a firm fruit with bright yellow skin and a pleasing floral, pear-like fragrance. The firm white flesh has a dry texture and astringent flavor when raw, but when cooked, the Quince takes on a delicious apple-pineapple-pear flavor. The white flesh also turns a rosy pink color when slowly cooked for hours.

Quince is harvested in April and May in Chile, and in California during the late summer and early fall. Ripe fruits will have a nice yellow color and emit a nice fragrance. Once fully ripened, store Quince in the refrigerator and use within a few weeks.

Quince has been enjoyed for centuries in the Mediterranean as a sweet jam or jelly with its signature delicate pink hue. Quince is also a popular addition to desserts with apples, such as pies, crisps and even apple sauce, as the sweet fragrance, firm texture and pineapple-like flavor adds depth to the cooked apples.

Many Spanish-speaking countries refer to Quince as “Membrillo,” and one of the most common forms of it is a gelatinous fruity paste called dulce de membrillo. This sweet, slightly grainy delicacy is often served with cheese and dried fruits. The versatile Quince also stands up well to spices and various cooking methods, making it an ideal ingredient for fruit chutneys served with savory foods.

The hardest part about the Quince is cutting them. You will need a sharp chef’s knife and vegetable peeler to prep these tough fruits. However, your work will be paid off when that fabulous Quince aroma fills your kitchen, and that delicious sweet-tart flavor hits your taste buds.

Fun Fact: Some historians believe that Eve’s fruit of temptation might have been a Quince from the garden of Eden.

RECIPE

Quince Brown Betty

4 Frieda’s Quinces, peeled and thinly sliced (about 4 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup apple juice
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Topping:
1/2 cup dry oatmeal
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cold butter or margarine, cut into pieces

Combine the quince slices with apple and lemon juices in a large bowl and mix well. Stir together brown sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, lemon peel and pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl. Add to the quince mixture and mix well. Spoon the mixture into a 7 x 11-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Combine the oatmeal, brown sugar, pine nuts and 1/4 cup flour in a large bowl and mix well. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry blender, or two knives used in crisscross fashion, until the mixture resembles small peas. Sprinkle the oatmeal mixture evenly over the fruit.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until the fruit is very tender and top is golden brown. Serve warm, cool or chilled. Makes 6 servings.

Source: Frieda’s Specialty Produce; www.friedas.com