The wintry season will see more of us embracing time in our kitchens. Conditions are right for finding a cooking project with a modest learning curve and big rewards. It’s an opportune moment to discover quince, the final act in the year’s fruit season.

Quince is ginkgo-leaf yellow when ripe, and the pome is sensual to the eye and in hand – all Rubenesque curves and dimples. It was a symbol of love, happiness and fertility for the ancient Greeks. But its sauterne scent is the real seduction: honey, ripe pineapple and antique roses.

“In the orchard, the ripe fruit is so fragrant it’s a challenge to evaluate individual varieties for aroma,” says Joseph Postman, retired curator and plant pathologist at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository.

Cutting into the fruit the first time is a strange experience. The flesh is dense, dry, a little woody even. The core has an almond-like shape, and the membrane containing the tiny mahogany seeds – the endocarp – is thick and tough. Slice the fruit into wedges and then carefully cut out the core by making a deepish V with a paring knife or using a melon baller. For kitchen tool geeks, a peach pitting spoon works like a charm.

It needs cooking – and not just a little. Watching the fruit turn a sunset palette of rose-orange shades while poaching is a small miracle. The plant pigment anthocyanin is responsible, and the intensity depends on the varietal’s tannin content. Heat creates the magic. Spooning wedges out of ruby syrup on a blustery day is restorative for the senses and spirit.

Quince season is short, from October into December, and crops are as small as demand. The tree thrives in hot, dry conditions and is not terribly cold tolerant. Sometimes, the fruit is available out of season, but cut into it, and the flesh is brown throughout from late harvesting or growing and storing in suboptimal conditions.

“The Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas are the fruit’s center of origin,” says Postman. It has grown wild for centuries, and agrarian Levantine, Sephardic and Orthodox Christian communities around the Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea and North Africa cook with it. Ripe fruit is preserved into jams, jellies and sweet pastes.

Out of a desire to hold tight to the memory of her Armenian grandmother, Barbara Ghazarian wrote a cookbook, “Simply Quince” (Mayreni Publishing, 2009). “There were three trees in her yard, and she put the fruit down every fall,” she says. “When my family would visit on a high-holiday afternoon, she would serve thin slices of candied quince along with strong coffee.”

The sweet sounds like gliko, a sugar-saturated confit of fruit from the southern Albanian city of Përmet, which the Slow Food Presidium has protectively embraced, calling it “a largely forgotten gastronomic treasure.”

A year ago, Aya Wadi and her mother, Duha Shaar, opened a restaurant, Royal Aleppo Food, in Thunder Bay, Ontario. In return for their warmth and hospitality, they received an abundance of attention and goodwill, including a spot in the UN Refugee Agency’s beautiful free cookbook, “Tastes From Home.”

Eating kibbe bi safarjaliyeh, a savory meat and quince dish from Aleppo, Syria, on the first night of Eid stirs up happy memories. But the Wadis’ northern location means the window of availability is smaller. After their first year without quince, they began freezing an annual supply, cutting the fruit into large chunks and simmering it in water with salt and citric acid to prevent oxidation. “My father bought a big box of about 100 quinces,” she says with a laugh. “People were wondering what he was doing with them.”

The fruit is still a mystery to most North Americans. The organic orchardist Tremaine Arkley built a market for his quince through restaurants in Portland, Oregon, a good move from a consumer education perspective. Who better to demystify the fruit and bring out its allure than chefs?

He grows the varietal Portugal and has 250 trees on his farm in Independence, Oregon, in the Willamette Valley. “It’s flavorful, easy to grow, has a smooth skin and is a good size,” he says, “They can get to be a pound apiece.” He also sells to farmers markets and cider and spirit makers.

Growth may be promising in the hard cider and spirit market, but there are challenges, too. The fruit is not as juicy as apples or pears and is tannic. Varieties better suited to juicing are not grown commercially in the United States. “Out of 10 bushels, we got maybe a couple of gallons of juice,” says distiller Jamie Oakes of Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire. Using a hand-crank press is strenuous work, and because the seeds are high in pectin, it can gum up the mechanics of a commercial hydraulic press.

Steven Grasse, the CEO of Quaker City Mercantile and owner of Tamworth Distilling, produced a small-batch Ginger Quince Cordial in 2019. Sourcing local fruit – a core value of the business – is a big challenge. “We use the distillery test kitchen to do the craziest stuff with spirits in small batches to increase our knowledge,” he says, “We’re in a rural community in the White Mountains, and what we produce is wilderness-to-table.”

Grasse wrote a charming and informative book, “Colonial Spirits,” in 2016 that includes a recipe for quince wine. It reads like a worthy undertaking for a history nerd crossed with a curious home beverage maker – something to brighten faltering spirits come February.

For the home cook, toss the poached fruit into a fall salad. Its sweetness and squash-like texture pair beautifully with bitter leafy greens, toasted nuts and shaved root vegetables. Or sprinkle the fruit with rose water and serve with a creamy pudding.

Ghazarian likes to chop raw quince and add it to stuffing for roast turkey or pork. “A slice or two of quince in autumn put into chicken stock gives an excellent flavour,” writes Patience Gray in her book “Honey From A Weed.”

Sweet quince paste – membrillo from Spain or Latin America and cotognata from Italy – are a natural with buttery gorgonzola or crumbly aged queso manchego.

But the exquisite pleasure of the fruit is not just in the eating. A pottery bowl of quince on a kitchen table, waiting to be cooked, is an antidote to the gray flannel days in late fall. The vibrant yellow color of the skin and their exotic scent brighten the room and lift the spirit.

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Poached Quince

Active time: 20 minutes | Total time: 1 hour, 50 minutes, plus 1 hour for cooling

8 servings

As the fruit takes its time to soften, it turns a watercolor palette of rose shades, with a squash-like density and a floral taste. The rose color will deepen as the fruit sits in the poaching liquid in the refrigerator. Serve it with yogurt for breakfast, chop and add to muffins or quick bread, or garnish ice cream for a seasonal dessert.

Working with raw quince, though, can be a bit of a challenge. The flesh is dense, the core is tough and full of seeds – use a melon-baller or cut a deep “v” around the core and pry it out.

Don’t toss the sweet poaching liquid. Store it in the refrigerator and use it as you would simple syrup to sweeten teas, sparkling water or cocktails.

Storage Notes: Poached quince can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

Where to Buy: Quince can be found at well-stocked grocery stores, farmers market or ordered online; check with local farm stands first.


4 cups (800 grams) granulated sugar

3 cups (720 milliliters) water

Generous 1 cup (250 milliliters) dry Riesling

1 (1/2-inch) lemon slice

1 1/2 pounds (680 grams total; about 6) skin-on quinces, quartered and cored


In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, water, riesling and lemon, stir, and then add the quince. Cover with a round of parchment paper to keep the fruit submerged and prevent browning.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the mixture is at a gentle simmer and cook until the fruit is tender when pierced, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove from the heat, let cool completely, then transfer to a 32-ounce or larger lidded container and refrigerate until needed.

Nutrition information per serving (1/2 cup) | Calories: 213; Total Fat: 0 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 3 mg; Carbohydrates: 54 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 40 g; Protein: 0 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Recipe from food writer Deborah Reid.

Kale and Herb Salad with Poached Quince.  Photo by Rey Lopez for The Washington Post

Kale and Herb Salad With Poached Quince

45 minutes

6 to 8 servings (makes about 6 cups salad and 1/2 cup dressing)

Iceberg lettuce and lacinato kale deliver varied texture, while fresh mint and cilantro bring flavor. Shaving fennel, carrot and red onion on a mandoline adds texture and color. If you don’t have a mandoline, use a vegetable peeler. Tossed with a punchy ginger-yogurt dressing and garnished with ruby-red poached quince and toasted walnuts, this is a complex salad that goes well with simple roasted or grilled meats.

The dressing can be refrigerated for up to a week. The leafy-herb base can be tossed together, covered, and refrigerated for 2 or 3 days.



3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons full-fat plain yogurt

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced or finely grated

1 clove garlic, minced or finely grated

Fine sea or table salt

Freshly cracked black pepper


1/2 large head iceberg lettuce (about 8 ounces), torn into bite-size pieces

1 small bunch lacinato kale (6 ounces), stemmed and cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 bunch (about 1/4 cup, packed) fresh mint leaves

1/4 bunch (about 1/4 cup packed) fresh cilantro leaves, leaves only

1 large carrot (about 4 ounces), shaved into strips

1/2 bulb fennel (about 4 ounces), shaved

1/2 medium red onion, shaved or very thinly sliced

Fine sea or table salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

8 poached quince wedges, cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) coarsely chopped lightly toasted walnuts


Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, yogurt, vinegar, honey, ginger and garlic until combined, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the salad: In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, kale, mint and cilantro. Before serving, add the carrot, fennel and red onion. Add two-thirds of the dressing and season with salt and pepper; gently toss to coat the ingredients with the dressing. Taste and add more salt, pepper or dressing, if needed.

Top the salad with poached quince and walnuts and serve.

Nutrition per serving (Generous 3/4 cup salad with generous tablespoon dressing), based on 8 | Calories: 186; Total Fat: 6 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 1 mg; Sodium: 111 mg; Carbohydrates: 34 ; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugar: 24 g; Protein: 2 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

From food writer Deborah Reid.

Goat Milk Pudding and Poached Quince with Rose Water.  Photo by Rey Lopez for The Washington Post

Goat Milk Pudding and Poached Quince With Rose Water

Active time: 30 minutes | Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes with chilling time

4 servings

The creamy pudding and the squash-like texture of the quince are a nice contrast. Cow or sheep’s milk can be used in place of goat’s milk, and the addition of sour cream delivers a delicious tang. If rose water is hard to find, serve the quince as is or use orange flower water.

Make Ahead: The pudding needs to be made and chilled for at least 1 hour before serving.

Storage Notes: The pudding can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Where to Buy: Quince can be found in well-stocked grocery stores, farmers markets or ordered online. Goat milk and sour cream are available at well-stocked grocery stores or online grocery delivery companies.


Generous 2 cups (500 milliliters) full-fat goat milk (may substitute regular whole milk)

2 large egg yolks

Generous 1/4 cup (60 grams) granulated sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup (125 grams) goat milk sour cream (may substitute regular sour cream)

Generous 1 cup (about 200 grams or 1 1/2 quinces) finely chopped poached quince (see related recipe)

1/2 teaspoon rose water (may substitute orange blossom water)

Fresh mint sprigs, for serving


In a small pot over medium-high heat, bring the milk to just below a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom. Remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until combined. Whisking all the while, drizzle in about 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture to temper it. Add the remaining hot milk, then pour the mixture in the same pot you used for the milk. Set the pot over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring constantly to prevent scorching on the bottom, until the mixture starts to thicken and comes to a boil, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pudding from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Let it cool completely, whisking often to prevent a skin from forming, about 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour; the pudding will continue to thicken as it chills.

Just before assembling, whisk the sour cream into the cold pudding until smooth. In a small bowl, toss the quince with the rose water.

Layer the fruit and pudding into parfait glasses, beginning with the fruit and finishing with a pudding layer. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

When ready to serve, garnish with more chopped quince and the mint and serve cold.

Nutrition information per serving (1/2 cup) | Calories: 213; Total Fat: 0 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 3 mg; Carbohydrates: 54 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 40 g; Protein: 0 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Recipe from food writer Deborah Reid.

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