A quince tree's first crop is likely to be meagre, two or three, maybe five, perhaps only one. I'm inclined to say 'be relieved your tree hasn't produced two hundred fruit'. I think between twenty and thirty is the ideal number of quinces to have; enough to make a good batch of jelly or jam, enough to make some interesting puddings and pies, enough to freeze and enough to give away. But if you are the proud owner of just a few quinces here are some ideas for making the best of them.
A single, perfect quince
Stroke it, fondle it, inhale its glorious scent. Take photos of it, share them on social media. Paint it. Put it on your mantelpiece and allow it to perfume a room for a few days.
Then peel it, core it, cut it up small and stew very gently with a very little water until tender. Sweeten and add to apples in a pie, or a crumble.
Or, make quince vodka or brandy.
Two, three or more quinces
Do all of the above but also consider making jelly. Three or four will make at four jars of delicious jewel-like jelly. The great thing about jelly is that you don't need a specific amount of quinces, just cook what you have in water till soft, strain and measure the resulting juice adding a pound of sugar for every pint (2½ cups) of juice.
Make quince and apple purée. I discovered the other day while making quince and apple meringue pudding from Jane Grigson's lovely book Good Things that a purée made of apple and quince is subtly nicer than one made from each fruit alone. The quince enhances the apple and the apple relieves the quince of its graininess and sometimes overpowering flavour.
Use one quince and three Bramleys (or any sharp collapsing kind of cooking apple). Melt over a low heat 2 oz (50-60g) of butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Peel and core the fruit, chop into chunks and add to the pan. Cover and cook very gently until there is about an inch of juice in the pan and the fruit is soft. I mashed mine with a wooden spoon but you can push it through a sieve for a more refined dish. Add sugar to taste -about two tablespoons seemed right for mine. You can also add a pinch of ground cloves and cinnamon although I am not sure anything with quince needs any additional flavouring and I won't add the spices next time I make it. You can, of course make a plain apple purée using this method in which case the spices would be very welcome. Here the quince is the spice.
Eat your quince and apple purée warm or cold, with or without cream, stirred into yogurt, swirled through custard, with rice pudding, on pancakes or topped with meringue as below. It would also be good with roast pork or goose. Make lots if you have lots of quinces and freeze.
|Quince and apple purée|
|Topped with meringue|
|Baked and eaten|