Just look at these two photographs – the before and after.
Quince is one of my favourite fruits – when raw most varieties are inedible, dry and astringent. While the skin of quinces turns from green to yellow and their flesh softens slightly as they ripen they don’t loose their astringency, for that they need cooking. Cooked quinces not only change texture, becoming soft and edible, this autumnal fruit like autumn leaves, dramatically changes colour, turning dark ruby red.
I have lots of recipes for quince but my favourite is simply to oven poach them slowly in a sugar syrup, with a little lemon verbena. I have a pot of lemon verbena or verveine as it is known in French, growing in the courtyard of my Paris apartment building. It was looking a little scraggly when I arrived this month so I trimmed it hard and hung the branches to dry – it makes the best tea. When I went to poach my quinces there was nothing left on my plant to pick so I used a dried leafless branch, still full of lemony essence. The trick to turning your quinces dark red is to start with very green ones. Hard green quinces can be cooked for the three hours or so it takes for them to change colour, riper quinces will soften and explode before they change colour. Add all the quince peelings and seeds to the initial poaching syrup, which can be boiled down to make a delicious quince jelly.
And if you are too lazy to cook them, buy a few and place them in a bowl on your table. Their heady fragrance will fill your home and conjure up thoughts of exotic places.