Quince isn't a fruit one stumbles over often- not in this part of the world, anyway. So imagine my delight when I entered a supermarket in Hollywood last week and spotted piles of it, seated indian-style with the bananas and apples.
They were labeled "quince pears", and bumpy pears are indeed what they resemble (both are members of the pome family). Their flavor, however, belongs to quince alone: consider the most fragrant, floral bartlett soaked with rosewater and pineapple juice and you still haven't come close. Bite into one and see for yourself.....
Gotcha! Pretty terrible, isn't it?! When raw, quince is tart and hard, practically inedible. Be patient- quince is a model of belated gratification. As it roasts or simmers, quince takes the lazy route, softening and finding honey at a snail's pace- a languid hour or two- darkening to a rosy blush and filling the house with perfume.
Quince needs to ripen at room temperature. Refrigerate it- lest it become mealy- once the fruit has lost all traces of green.
lemon, juice and peel
To prepare quince: Peel, quarter, and remove core with a melon baller, a sturdy teaspoon, or a sharp knife (careful- its flesh can be quite hard). Cut quarters in half and set aside.
Per each quince, fill a non-reactive saucepan or pot with one cup of water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 vanilla bean, 1/4 cinnamon stick, a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a strip of peel. Add the quince and cover with a parchment circle and/or small plate so the fruit stays submerged. Bring to boil, lower heat, and simmer for 45 minutes to two hours, until fruit is tender and easily pierced with a sharp knife (it will range in color from a light peach to a deep rose).
Cooled quince can be stored in its poaching liquid, refrigerated, for up to two weeks.