Armidale, a town in northern NSW, gets a little chilly in autumn, but that gives it the perfect climate for growing quinces. I was staying in Armidale recently when a very excited young physicist came rushing into my cabin bearing two fruit. She didn’t know what they were, but she’d found a tree full of them, and was eager to find out whether they were edible. I explained that they were quinces, and before I knew it I’d promised stewed fruit for breakfast, and was being rushed out the door on a foraging expedition.
By the end of an afternoon’s stewing I’d learnt that quinces are an under-appreciated fruit. Almost every visitor to my cabin asked me what strange fruit I was cooking. Some people had eaten quince paste before, but they’d never seen the fruit it came from. But the one person who knew quinces could recognise them by smell. He told me that just the smell of quinces cooking brought him “flashbacks” of his grandmother.
In honour of grandmothers and quinces, here’s a method for making stewed quince. It’s terribly imprecise, but all you’ll need is quinces, water and sugar. Arm yourself with a teaspoon for tasting and you can’t go wrong. And the longer you boil your quinces, the pinker and prettier they’ll be. Enjoy them on your porridge, with a dollop of plain yoghurt.
Quarter your quinces, core them, and dice them. You can leave the skin on – it should help them turn pinker.
Place them in a large saucepan with a few centimetres of water in the bottom. You don’t need to cover the quinces, but you do need to stop them from sticking to the bottom.
Boil the quinces, for hours, until the pieces turn mushy and pinkish. You’ll need to keep topping up the water and stirring them to stop them from sticking to the saucepan. The more boiling you do, the more intense the pink colour should be.
Sweeten the quinces to taste by adding a few tablespoons of sugar, stirring to dissolve, and then tasting until you’re satisfied.
Stewed fruit can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge, or if you’ve made plenty you can freeze it. You can use it as the base for a crumble or as a topping on your cereal or porridge.