Poached Quinces

I  must have bought 20 pounds of quinces at the farmers' market this year, and I still wish I'd bought more. They are such an amazing fruit - incredibly fragrant when raw (they'll perfume your whole house in the most wonderful way) and more delicious than either apples or pears when cooked!

The only strange thing is, you can't eat them raw. They're too astringent. But there are so many great ways to eat them cooked - we've had quince pie at Thanksgiving, quince and goat cheese tart, beef stew with quinces, saffron chicken with quinces... honestly, anything with apples is better with quinces.

There are so many recipes for poached quinces out there, but this is definitely the best one I've tried - it is adapted from the one in Yotam Ottolenghi's wonderful cookbook, Plenty. If you can't find quinces, you can try it with firm pears or apples. Use them in tarts, on salads, for dessert with ice cream, with a cheese plate, for breakfast with yogurt and granola, or maybe even for quince tarte tatin.

4 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 t. black peppercorns
Zest of 1 orange, peeled off in wide strips
4 bay leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cup red wine (optional, but great)
4-5 pounds quinces

Preheat the oven to 275F. In a Dutch oven, place the water, sugar, peppercorns, orange zest, bay leaves, lemon juice and wine. Bring to a boil on the stovetop, over medium heat. Meanwhile, scrub the quinces well, and cut them into eighths. Remove the core with a sharp knife, adding the slices to the pot as you go. Cover the pan tightly, and cook in the oven about 2 hours. The quinces should be completely tender and the sugar syrup should have thickened a bit but still be pourable.

Prepare 4 quart jars and water bath for canning. I just put the jars in the water and bring the whole thing up to a hard rolling boil; when the water is ready, the jars are sterilized. Warm the 2-piece lids in a skillet of water. Ladle the quinces and syrup into jars and screw on the lids. Lower into the boiling water with the jar lifter, and keep at a gentle boil for 45 minutes (this is for our elevation of 5000 feet; you can get away with 5 minutes less for every 2000 feet less elevation). Turn off heat and let jars sit in the water about 5 minutes, then lift out, set on a dishtowel, and let cool overnight undisturbed.


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