Autumn has finally arrived, so it’s quince season once again, and I have been busy making Persian quince stew, jam, and Membrillo!
Every year I look forward to the arrival of Fall and its seasonal produce, ranging from a fantastic variety of squashes, including the sweet and tender butternut squash, to fruits like persimmons, pomegranates, and quince.
Quince is an ancient fruit whose origin is in the Mediterranean and Middle East regions, which offer the perfect climate for the tree to flourish. Coincidentally, quince also grows well locally here in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. More on that later.
There are quite a few varieties of this almost forgotten fruit that is now making a comeback! Some are round, much like an apple; some are orange in color with a citrus scent. Others are pear-shaped and have a delicate yellow color. Most of the quince we purchase from grocery stores is pear-shaped with a mild, lemon-like flavor and fuzzy golden skin.
While some quince can be eaten raw when fully ripened, their true beauty is unlocked when cooked to bring out their delicious fragrance and transform them into a rosy-red colored treat.
The fruit is typically harvested in mid to late Autumn before the first frost. Iranians particularly love quince because of its delicate citrus and rose scent and its tart flavor. As with most things tart in Persian cuisine, quince is celebrated and brought into balance with the addition of some sweetener.
Quince-full in Seattle
For as long as I have been teaching cooking classes in Seattle, I have made a point of introducing something with quince every Fall. So it is fair to say that I do have a bit of a reputation in my community as the quince guy!
Every year at about this time, I get a call from a friend or two, inviting me over to their homes to pick quince from their tree, or to be surprised with already picked bagful of this beautiful fruit. This year I truly hit the jackpot, with good friends gifting me pounds and pounds of this golden fruit.
I have been peeling, coring, seeding, and dicing nightly, and cooking quince to blanch and freeze, turn it into jam and spreads, sautee it for Persian stews, and cook it down to make Membrillo.
I store the fruit in my cool and dark pantry to keep it from over-ripening. Now, if you could only imagine the heavenly scent wafting from the pantry every time I reach for something. The blissful scent that brings ear-to-ear smiles on my face and warms my heart with gratitude and memories of my childhood.
Lastly, if you follow me on Instagram, you will notice how frequently I post pictures of homemade sourdough bread. Every week I make two loaves of bread, one to keep and one to give away to a friend. Giving a loaf of bread has been my way of connecting and staying in touch with my Seattle friends during the pandemic.
Each loaf is accompanied by the previous year’s quince jam!
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 1 lb beef, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (chuck or round)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 2 1/2 cups water, adjust as needed
- 1/2 cup yellow split peas
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- 5 tablespoons sugar, adjust to your taste
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
- 3 medium-sized quince, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch wedges
- 4 tablespoons oil or ghee or butter
- In a large pot, saute the onions in oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until they have become translucent.
- Add the turmeric and stir for a couple of minutes.
- Add the beef pieces and saute on high heat for about 5 minutes. The beef and onions should have turned a beautiful golden color and become aromatic.
- Add water, cover, and bring to a gentle simmer before reducing the heat and cooking the stew for one hour. The beef should be somewhat tender but not fully cooked at this stage.
- While the stew is cooking, saute the sliced quince in a large frying pan over medium heat with oil until they have become golden in color. Typically this would take about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- After the beef has been cooking for 1 hour, add the yellow split peas, stir, cover and cook for another 30 minutes.
- Add salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar and saffron water to the main pot, and stir.
- Place the sauteed quince on top of the Khoresh and gently press them down enough to soak up some of the stew's cooking broth. Cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
- Serve with Persian steamed basmati rice.