Ripening quinces, for me, definitely mark the arrival of serious autumn weather moving into the cold snaps of winter. It is not a fruit you can chomp into. It does required peeling and cooking. The joy is the flavour and colour you get from the cooking process. I usually cook up as much as I can, freeze it then make quince paste and jelly when colder winter days arrive.
I love it as a crumble base mixed with rhubarb and apples. I have a couple of cake recipes I am yet to try. It is, however, quince paste that is the decadent end product I most love. After some experimenting I now make the paste using the microwave – gradually getting the paste drier until it is really thick and sticky. I also don’t make it as a sliceable jelly as I find that too hard to spread. I like it more as a thick spreadable paste.
Quince trees are very hardy. They are related to apples but handle our inland temperate climate much more easily. Often you see old trees in odd places where perhaps a house use to stand. The tree is also one of the first fruit trees to flower in very early spring. Again here the tree is so giving. The delicate and fragrant flowers bring a smile and the hope of warm spring weather.
If you want to plant a quince tree now is the time of year to find a supplier. You are best to plant the tree as bare rooted in winter. There are a few varieties to select from and your local supplier will give you advice on which to choose for your area. Mine is “Champion” and I like the size and shape of fruit that it produces. I grow it as an espaliered tree next to pears and apples. This makes it easy to net to keep out birds and fruit fly. I also have the trees in an orchard where our chooks free range. This means that codling moth – a major problem for apples, pear and quince is not an issue. One tree is enough for our family and to supply us , friends and the local food swap with quince paste until next year.
Have a look around your neighbourhood, you might find some fruit free to pick. Cook it up and enjoy the autumn and winter joy to come.