To me, quinces are a real treat. Incredibly hard and tart when raw, they're transformed by cooking into stunning crimson jewels with a distinctive flavour and haunting perfume. They traditionally have a fairly short season from mid autumn into early winter, but careful storage extends the season. As quinces ripen from greenish yellow to deeper gold, the pectin levels will drop, making them less suitable for jams and jellies but just as delicious roasted. Ask your greengrocer about varieties, as some quinces don't hold their shape as well during cooking.
5 medium quinces, fuzz brushed off
400g castor sugar
100g of your favourite honey
1 lemon, zest peeled and juiced
1 orange, zest peeled and juiced
2 cinnamon quills
2 fresh bay leaves
1. Preheat your oven to 140C fan-forced or 160C conventional.
2. Carefully cut the quinces in half lengthways and lay them in a ceramic baking dish, cut side up. Scatter over the sugar, drizzle with the honey, add the lemon and orange zest and juice and pour over the verjuice. Scatter over the cinnamon quills, cloves and bay leaves, cover with baking paper and foil and bake for two hours.
3. Uncover and cook for a further two hours. Once cooked, the quinces will be crimson in colour and there will be a thick, fragrant and almost jam-like syrup in the dish.
4. You can serve the quinces hot or at room temperature, although once refrigerated they will need to be warmed through to relax the jelly. I especially like them served warm with plenty of chilled vanilla custard but ice-cream or cream are also good.
1. When buying quinces, select ones that are fragrant and heavy in the hand.
2. Use leftover cooked quinces to make quince paste, which is delicious served with cheese. Strain the syrup to discard the spices, remove the cores and puree the flesh with the strained syrup, strain again (not too fine - you just want to keep any stray skin or pips out) and set in a lined dish in the fridge.
3. Cooking the quinces in their skins really enhances their beautiful ruby colour once cooked.