Spiced Wine-Poached Quince Sauce is applesauce’s cheeky pink-hued cousin. The sauce is also a breeze to make. Quince is slow poached in a simple sugar syrup with a spirited combination of wine, cinnamon, cardamom, black peppercorns, lemon and ginger before being pureed.
I feel somewhat lucky because my local supermarket seems to ambitiously overbuy seasonal fruit and vegetables before deeply discounting them. The more unusual or expensive an item, the more likely it will end up with a “manager’s special” sticker on it. This week, perfectly ripe quinces were reduced from $1.50 each to $1 for a bag of 5. I scooped up all the bags I could without drawing too much attention to my idiosyncratic hobby of foraging for foodie bargains.
Quince’s quirky qualities probably keep quince’s floral aroma and distinctly ambrosial flavor from stardom. I am sure pomegranate’s PR machine could do wonders for quince by focusing on how exotically charming quince is.
- Quince is bitter and inedible raw. It must be cooked to bring out the sweetness.
- Quince has particularly hard flesh and can be a bit difficult to cut when raw.
- Quince turns from green to a golden yellow when ripe. It can be stored for many weeks in the refrigerator once ripened.
- Quince oxidizes even quicker than apples do so it must be cooked fairly quickly once peeled.
- Quince has an unusually high amount of pectin so it is an ideal vehicle for preserves.
- The white raw flesh of quince turns a gorgeous pinkish hue when cooked.
The cooked flavor of quince is specific and somewhat hard to describe. Imagine the combination of apple, pear, floral, and rose flavors with a hint of pineapple or guava. The intoxicating aroma of a ripe or cooked quince is evocative of vanilla, citrus and tropical scents. Quince’s powerful fragrance was once used to make perfume in ancient Greece.
During Chanukah Spiced Wine-Poached Quince Sauce pairs perfectly with potato latkes and sour cream. I have included a recipe alternative for Spiced Wine-Poached Quince Applesauce if a gentler introduction to quince’s powerfully aromatic taste is desired. As once of the oldest fruits on record, quince brings a rich history to the table. The “golden apple” in Greek mythology was undoubtedly a quince. In A History of Food in 100 Recipes William Sitwell profiles a 15th century recipe for Spiced Wine Quince Baked in a Pastry “Coffin” from This Boke of Cokery; the first known written cookbook . In a way, Spiced Wine-Poached Quince Sauce is somewhat of a variation on that recipe.
Quince is native to Iran. In the Middle East, quince is commonly found in both sweet and savory dishes as well as drinks. In a fascinating cookbook called The Mediterranean Pantry by Aglaia Kremezi I found an intriguing recipe for a vodka based liqueur called Quince Ratafia which is reminiscent of limoncello. Steeping quince in vodka is on my radar for another day, but for now I hope my homey quince sauce and the suggested variations below helps in some small way to make quince more relatable so it can get the love it deserves.
Spiced Wine-Poached Quince Sauce
(With Suggested Variations Including Spiced Wine-Poached Quince Applesauce)
Makes one quart
3 cups water
1 cup white wine (sauvignon blanc is my favorite wine to use)
2 lbs quince (about 5 medium or 4 large)
1 lb sugar (about 2 cups)
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp whole black peppercorns
1/8 tsp green cardamom seeds (crush 2 pods to get the seeds out)
three 3” by 1” lemon zest strips
one 3” by 1” piece of fresh or candied ginger
2 Tbs lemon juice
Use cooking twine or other food grade string to tie peppercorn and cardamom in a small cheesecloth bundle. Alternatively, instead of making a cheesecloth bundle two whole cardamom pods can be added and fished out of the syrup along with the loose peppercorns once the quinces are cooked.
In a 4 quart pot bring water, wine, sugar, cinnamon, peppercorn and cardamom bundle, lemon zest, ginger and lemon juice to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
With a peeler peel the quinces then cut in half with a large knife. Use a sturdy melon baller to scoop out the fibrous core of the quince. A sharp paring knife can also be used…but carefully because the flesh can be hard and challenging to cut. Cut each quince into quarters and place in poaching liquid. Cut a parchment circle a bit larger than the diameter of the pot and place over the poaching liquid to keep the quinces submerged. Cookware stores often carry parchment circles which make this step even easier.
Slow poach quinces by simmering on low for about 1 hour. Quinces are done when a sharp knife easily pierces through the quinces and they are easily broken up. Take off stove.
Remove and throw away cinnamon, peppercorn, cardamom, lemon zest, and ginger from pot. Let poaching liquid and quinces cool then transfer to food processor and puree until smooth. An immersion blender or even a regular blender can also be used to achieve a smooth consistency. Quince retains a bit of texture when cooked so the sauce will not be as smooth as apple sauce is.
The sauce will keep for one week in refrigerator and two months in the freezer. Quince sauce makes a perfect hostess gift to bring to a Chanukah or holiday gathering.
- The formula for making quince sauce is basically a 2:1 quince to sugar ratio and 2:1 sugar to liquid ratio. Quince seems to pair best with warm fall and winter flavors including cinnamon, cloves, allspice, peppercorn, cardamom, ginger, star anise, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, vanilla, lemon, orange, pomegranate and wine. As long as the basic formula ratio of quince, sugar and liquid is followed, this recipe can be tailored to suit individual taste by mixing and matching the complementary flavors.
- To make Spiced Wine-Poached Quinces follow the recipe but do not puree the quince. Serve Spiced Wine-Poached Quinces over vanilla bean ice cream or with freshly whipped cream for a luscious winter dessert.
- The flavor of Spiced Wine-Poached Quince Sauce is powerfully floral and may benefit from a more incremental approach if you are making it for newbie quince tasters. To make Spice Wine-Poached Quince Applesauce make the recipe as written but substitute half the quince for apples for a sophisticated take on applesauce.