I was introduced to quince when I was living in London and it became one of my favourite fruits. Mmm…poached quince and vanilla as a dessert..this is stuff of dreams! After moving to Asia, I realised I hadn’t had one recently until I had a quince presented to me in the form of tea during a recent trip to Korea. Naturally, this made me curious to research more about it.
Quince is actually native to South-West Asia – more specifically to Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Afghanistan with references dating back to Mesopotamia and its Akkadian Empire. It is believed that quince pre-dates apples and has been referred to as the actual “forbidden fruit” in the Garden of Eden. In Greek mythology, it is associated with the goddess of love, Aphrodite, and many historians believe that the golden apple given to her by Paris was a quince.
There are several different types and species of quinces. Quince belongs to the same fruit category as apples and pears. Quince have a hard but very fragrant yellowish skin. A few species of quince can be eaten raw, while it is suggested that the others be cooked to soften the fruit before you eat them.
Even the Romans and Greeks knew that slow cooking quince with honey would result in a mixture that has a thick, “set” texture when cooled. The texture reminds me of marmalade which originally meant quince jam. The name is derived from marmelo, which is Portuguese for the quince fruit.
Quinces are great for making jam and jelly because they have a high content of pectin. I personally like them peeled, roasted, baked or stewed with vanilla, and/or other spices. In Spain, they make a firm, sweet, reddish, fruity paste called Quince Cheese. In Southeast Europe, they make distilled spirit out of quince called Rakija while people in other parts of Europe make digestif liqueurs from quince. Since the quince fruit is fermentable, I would not be surprised if someone is making cider out of it.
In China and Japan the quince trees are the most popular trees of the deciduous bonsai species. Wood from quince trees is used to make a low-end three stringed musical instrument called shamisen. It has also been widely used in dessert making across Asia. And as I mentioned at the start of this article, Koreans make tea out of quinces.
We love to eat cheese at home and we are always looking for something new to complement our cheese board. This time, instead of cocktails, we wanted to share the recipe for our homemade quince liqueur with you. We absolutely love sipping a glass of this on ice while enjoying a cheese board.
Homemade Quince Liqueur
600 ml Vodka (Rice shochu is a great replacement)
400 gm Quince
100 gm Caster sugar
- Wash quince with hot water and wipe well on a dry towel.
- Cut fruit into slices 1 cm in thickness. Keep the seeds as they are nutritious.
- Put sliced quince and sugar in glass jar.
- Pour in vodka or any other clear spirit (shochu, gin, young rum) into glass jar and seal it.
Now here is the tricky part, we like to start sipping the infusion after two weeks and keep the infusion going for another circa 6 months and then separate the fruit. Do let us know if you try it and let us know your thoughts!
Bartender’s note: “Quince works well with many winter spices.”