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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Poached Quinces-The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Quinces - closely related to apples and pears. They ripen in autumn when their skins are yellow and they look like pears in shape.
The trees are frost resistant and in fact need several nights below 7C for fruit setting but the fruit themselves need to be harvested before the first frosts.
They are usually too hard and sour to be eaten raw so are more usually poached and used for many recipes from cakes to savoury roasts to pickles (lets face it we do seem to pickle just about anything!) and a favourite in Tasmania is quince paste that is enjoyed with our islands fabulous cheeses.
Sound like I know it all....
This is my first cooking foray with quinces and its about to get ugly...

I found lots of recipes to try in Stephanie Alexanders "Cook's Companion" (my favourite cookbook and bible for the kitchen. I chose to poach and take my projects from there.
So I duly got out my cast iron casserole dish and washed the quinces the really well.
In went the seeds wrapped in muslin and light syrup and a whole vanilla bean.
So first cut into quarters or sixths.
They are as hard as pumpkin to cut!
Stephanie says to poach at 150C for at least 4hrs and up to 8hrs.
Perfect!...because I have to now go to work and it can cook away till I get home
Hmmmm....just a thought, perhaps I could do this in the slow cooker....
better just stick to the book for my first time.

They turn red, that's OK, that's not the bad bit.
The bad bit is that I didn't read the recipe properly and I should have peeled them.
That's OK, 'cos I can gently peel off the skins.
Here comes the ugly....
The smell when I got home was overpowering throughout the house and it was like burnt vanilla toffee.
And that's because it was!!!
The syrup had bubbled over all day and spilled onto the base of the oven and baked and baked

This my friends is a snapshot of what I did this morning. After warming the oven again I went to work scraping the "toffee" off the bottom and using a hot cloth to try to wipe out the worst.
When I tried to rinse the cloth it became rock hard with impregnated burnt sugar so it was a long process.
I'm voting for a catching dish underneath next time or better still, I think this could all be achieved painlessly by using the slow cooker on low.

So away from the oven disaster and with a bit of "food styling" mmm-mm some beautiful glossy ruby chunks of poached quince ready for
Stephanie's Quince Tart
which is a blind baked shell of sweet short pastry with the quinces cut into wedges and arranged attractively with a frangipane style topping and baked again. The rest are going into the quince and nut cake.
But there is more....

I have reserved the poaching syrup for Eliza Acton's quince custard (also found in Stephanie's book)
where it is mixed with 12 egg yolks to make a custard to which I intend to re-use the vanilla bean by splitting it and adding the scraped seeds to the custard.

For more information about quinces start here at the Wikipedia link.


  1. Oh my goodness, what a mess!!! Maggie Beer made a gorgeous chocolate and quince tart on Masterchef Masterclass the other night too. It looked gorgeous.

  2. Oh I adore quinces and I have a baby quince tree. I love the first photo, such lovely colours. Hope you got all that toffee off ;)

  3. Oh dear, you really had a sticky mess.
    There is no right way to cook quinces. I usually cook them whole (unpeeled or cut) in a huge stockpot (20-30 quinces) with paper cartouche ( cut paper round to fit pot) & a plate to weigh them. Cook at least 8 hrs with lemon juice & no movement of the water so they poach lightly in their own juice & turn ruby red. Peel & scoop out seeds while hot & then wack them in halves in vacola jars with hot syrup-seal jars as normal.
    If you only have a few def try them in your slow cooker...
    ps-quince paste makes even more mess..

  4. Oh No! See thats the reason I hate to cook!! Although I can master a slow cooker.

  5. Hey Tanya what a day ........... I can imagine the mess in your oven.

    I have never cooked quinces at home, but I worked at a local small jam factory and we made quince paste a few years ago when it appeared on the gourmet food scene.

    Imagine cooking kilos of quinces to make about ten kilos worth of Quince paste? It was epic, alot of work, alot of mess but the quince paste was delicious. The aroma and the colour amazing.

    Hope you managed to get the oven clean. The quince tart sounds amazing, enjoy your efforts.

    Claire :}

    Claire :}

  6. Oh you poor dear.
    You cook just like I do!


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