If we want to talk about seasonal fruit, then the quince reigns supreme in the autumn months. At first glance, the quince may look like little, mis-grown pear, however, it is so much more than that and it has tons of amazing uses in the kitchen. One of this fruits great uses in the autumn is this recipe for Chai-Poached Quince.
Before I give you a run-down on my recipe, let me tell you a bit more about the quince fruit. For the most part, this is an unknown fruit to most Canadians as it is difficult to find and is highly seasonal. I actually hadn’t tried quince ever (other than quince jam) until earlier this autumn…and boy, have I been missing out! Quince can actually be grown in B.C. and are in season from September to early November. Quince are a soft yellow in colour and are covered in a hefty layer of greyish-yellow fuzz when they grow. It’s similar to the idea of peach fuzz, but you can rub off the quince fuzz quite easily. You can tell when the quince are ripe when they are soft when gently pressed and they smell fragrant, like vanilla and apple. I told you this fruit was special! The quince don’t often come with their leaves still attached, but I was lucky enough to find some with leaves at my favourite grocery store here in Victoria, the Rootcellar.
If you have never had quince before, they taste somewhere between a pear and an apple and are often tart, yet sweet at the same time. However, unlike pears or apples, you can’t take a big ol’ bite out of quince and eat it raw. Due to its strange woody yet spongy flesh, you have to cook it before you can eat it. I have to admit that it is a little difficult to cut up as the quince can be really tough and that woody stem really puts up a fight, but it is SO worth it in the end!
When cutting up the quince, I recommend using a very sharp paring knife and wrapping your hand in a dish towel for a bit of protection in case the knife accidentally slips. I almost got myself a few times and I was glad the towel saved my hands! I mainly focus on removing the core of the quince with all the seeds inside with the aid of a knife and a melon-baller. I leave the upper stem in even though it is quite tough, but cooking breaks it down just enough to make it edible. I also recommend having a sliced lemon on hand to rub the flesh once you cut it. The quince oxidizes incredibly fast and a little squeeze of lemon helps to prevent the fruit from turning too brown. Finally, I like to leave the skin on while it’s cooking as it easily peels off once cooked.
Once the fruit is cut up, I add it into my poaching liquid. In this case, a chai tea simple syrup made by lightly steeping some chai tea and adding it to some water, sugar, and chai spices like cinnamon, star anise, clove and cardamom. It’s such a great autumn combination and I love anything chai flavoured this time of year. As for the tea, I go back to my trusty Stash Tea brand and I use their “Chai Spice” flavour. I like how potent this tea can get, which is perfect for making chai tea lattes, but for this recipe, I only steep the tea for 2 minutes maximum since it’s cooking with fresh spices and is being concentrated quite a bit.
Once the quince have poached and become soft (about 40 minutes), I remove them from the pot along with the whole spices and reduce the juice until it becomes a rich and thick chai syrup. Once thickened, I spoon the chai syrup over the quince while they are still warm and then I serve them. While the poached quince are fantastic on their own, they would be made even better with a scoop of ice cream! How’s that for a beautiful autumnal dessert?
I hope that you learned a bit more about quince and perhaps would consider giving them a try if you haven’t already! For those of you who are quince experts, let me know how you like to prepare them in the comments below!
For the full recipe for my Chai-Poached Quince, click here!