This is a little post about a little something that brings me back to my childhood – the almighty quince.
Quince, or membrillo, as we call it in South America, is a fairly common fruit where I come from, but according to my research, California is the only state that grows quince commercially here in the United States. I recently found out that here in Utah, it grows in people’s backyards, but few are familiar with the fruit and how to eat it. Give me all your quince, people! Or better for you, read this post and find out how to turn it into something delicious.
If you’ve ever tried biting into a raw quince, especially one that wasn’t quite ripe, the experience probably caused you to spit it out in disgust. I don’t blame you if you resolved to never try it again. Raw quince is gritty, tart and astringent, sucking the moisture right out of your mouth. Yeah, not the most pleasant experience, and enough to turn anyone off from this otherwise delightful fruit that tastes somewhere between an apple and a pear when prepared correctly, which is to say, when you add a little heat.
My family hails from Chile and Argentina, where quince paste can be found in just about every pantry in every household, but here in the states it really wasn’t a thing until fairly recently. About ten years ago, I was delighted when I attended a friend’s party and one of the guests showed up with a little packet of quince paste and Manchego cheese to go with it. I watched all the curious faces wonder about the funny little quince brick sitting on the cheese board. Each curious expression turned to delight at the first tentative bite. That’s when I realized Americans were finally discovering the magic of quince, a fruit that has been admired throughout the world for centuries.
But quince is still a pretty esoteric food item in the States. And the scarcity of quince paste in the average grocery store means that, as with many specialty items, you can only find it in specialty stores, which means paying premium prices. If you’re fortunate enough to have a good Latin foods market where you live, you can find large tins of quince paste at reasonable prices. These large tins – these are what I grew up with as a child. I never recall my mother actually making quince paste.
All that being said, a few weeks ago my sister was gifted a large amount of quince which she quickly turned into quince paste. She was fortunate enough to get a second offering of quince, which she then shared with me (or I guess that makes me the fortunate one!).
After some careful consideration (some might say I give food a little too much thought) I resolved to turn my quince into quince jam. “Why jam,” you ask? “Why not the quintessential paste you’ve been going on and on about throughout this whole post?” Fair question. For my use, I wanted to be able to make a substance I could easily spread. A jam for me is more versatile than a paste (or jelly), and requires less sugar, as it doesn’t need to gel as much. And I really like the idea of less sugar.
The Various Ways to Use Quince Jam
- as a spread for toast
- as a filling for jam cookies (link thumb prints or linzer cookies)
- as an ice cream topping
- as an accompaniment to cheese (Manchego is a favorite)
- as a topping for crackers and cream cheese
- as a filling for tarts
- as a pancake topping
- as a filling for fancy crepes
- packed into sweet little jam jars and given as holiday gifts
- as a thoughtful hostess gift
- or eaten with a spoon straight out of the jar!
Any of those inspire you to cook up a big batch of quince jam?
Making Quince Jam – Keep those peels and seeds!
My sister, who is basically a walking encyclopedia of food and cooking knowledge, shared an important quince cooking tip with me and now I’m going to share it with you. The peel and seeds of the quince are super high in pectin, which is a great thing for making quince jam, or paste. One thing you’ll notice right away when you first touch a quince is the fuzzy brown fur covering the peel. This fuzz brushes right off with a rub of your hand, and the delicious aroma it releases, coincidentally, will blow you away!
The first step to making quince jam is to clean the fruit. Give them a thorough washing to remove the fuzz. I used a vegetable brush to gently scrub it off. Next, cut the quince into chunks, which makes them easier to peel, as shown here.
Save all the peels, cores and seeds and place them in a saucepan with enough water to cover the peels by about two inches. Simmer the peels for about 40 minutes, remove from heat, cover and set them aside until you need them.
Cooking the quince in the slow cooker means you can walk away and not worry about burning them – no need to stir constantly. Just set your timer and enjoy the fragrant aroma that will slowly permeate your home. Don’t be surprised if you peek inside your slow cooker and see a big change taking place. When quince cooks, it takes on a rosy color at first. The longer it cooks, the more intense the color change – eventually reaching a rich, rusty orange color.
The addition of cardamom and fresh ginger during cooking are completely optional, and not at all traditional (I like to play with spice). If you prefer, you can choose to omit them the first time you make quince jam so you become familiar with the pure taste of quince, which is delightful in its own right. Other complementary flavors to keep in mind for future variations are vanilla and cinnamon. It’s your jam – do it up whichever way you prefer.
I hope you enjoy this recipe for Slow Cooker Quince Jam with Cardamom and Ginger. Let me know your experience and any creative ways you enjoyed it. If you liked this recipe, please share it on your favorite social media platform.
Slow Cooker Quince Jam with Cardamom and Ginger
- 4 large quince 2 3/4 lbs, peeled and cut into 2" chunks (reserve peels and seeds)*
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder optional (freshly crushed is best, but not necessary)
- 2 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger, optional
- Begin by placing the reserved peels and seeds in a saucepan. Cover with water by two inches and simmer gently for about 30-40 minutes. Cover, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Place the quince, water, sugar and optional spices in a slow cooker. Stir, cover and set power to low. Cook for five hours. At the five hour mark, strain about 3/4 - 1 cup of the reserved liquid from the boiled skins and seeds. Add it to the jam and stir. (Discard the remaining peels and seeds.) Cook the quince jam for another 30 minutes to 1 hour. When the quince is a rich orange/rusty color, and the texture resembles a thick, sticky apple butter consistency, turn the heat off on the slow cooker and allow the quince to cool completely.
- Place the jam into clean jam jars. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month, or freeze up to three months.