When I exclaimed at finding fuzzy, yellow quince at the local apple orchard, a fellow shopper asked me what they were and what they tasted like. Maybe because quince must be cooked and can’t be eaten out of hand, these fragrant and ancient fruits are unfamiliar to most of us. They taste like a mix between a pear and an apple but with citrus overtones and a sweet perfume.
I certainly don’t find local quince very often, but I’ve enjoyed making rosy-colored quince paste membrillo in the past. The Hispanic jam is traditionally served in blocks along with cheese, so I scooped up half dozen of those I found that day to make into holiday gifts. Quince contain plenty of pectin so they’re easy to cook unpeeled. However, be careful cutting and coring them, as they’re very hard.
Quince make a great tarte tatin and can be combined with apples or pears for traditional pies or crisps, as well. I reserved part of my quince to turn into a strudel. I poached slices in white wine and lemon. A dessert wine or an off-dry Riesling work nicely, but you can also add sugar to any white you have or just use apple juice. The lemon juice will keep the quince from turning that pretty pink, unfortunately, but it teams up with the citrus side of their flavor, while sweet dried cherries partner with the sweet side. You could add chopped almonds, as well.
If you’ve never worked with filo dough, which is called for in this recipe, don’t let it scare you. Make sure it’s defrosted and at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes before you try to unroll it. Peel off a stack of five or so, re-package the remaining sheets, and get them back in the fridge fast. Also keep a dishtowel or waxed paper over the sheets you’ll be using, as the sheets dry out rapidly.
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup sugar (less if you use a sweet wine)
- 2 quince, cored and diced
- 1 T. lemon juice
- 5 sheets filo dough
- 1/3 cup dried tart cherries
- 2 T. kirsch or pear brandy (optional)
- 3 T. butter, melted
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In large sauté pan, cook the white wine and sugar until reduced by about half. Add quince and simmer until soft. Stir in lemon juice, cherries, and kirsch or pear brandy if using. Set aside to cool.
Carefully unfold filo, keeping stack covered as much as possible. Lay the first sheet on parchment paper or silicon baking sheet, and brush it with butter. Continue layering and buttering all five sheets. Spread quince filling over the whole surface, and roll up carefully from short end. Turn so the seam of the roll is underneath. Brush the roll with more butter.
Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool before slicing.