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The Quince - Mele cotogne, as old as the Mediterranean, and just as beautiful




Rice Pudding





Quick links to quince recipes on this page:

Puree - Jam - Paste - Candies - Meringue - Tart

And Quince Medieval Recipes



Quince fruit are very fragrant, yellow, apple-like fruit that have been cultivated since ancient times.  All but one variety of quince need to be cooked before they can be eaten.  But once they are cooked, they are delicious!

If you've never eaten cooked quince, you've never enjoyed nature's wonderful mixture of pear, apple and lemon.  The shape is usually like an apple (sometimes like a pear - pere cotogne); the texture is a bit grainy like a pear; the flavor is citrusy like a lemon.


Ancient Romans loved quince, and planted the trees all over their empire.  The quince planted in the warm climates around the Mediterranean Sea remain mainstays of those area's fruit production, and quinces are part of local diet.

But those trees planted in the colder, northern climates, mostly died off and were eventually not replanted.  In those countries, today, the quince fruit is considered 'forgotten fruit'.  Quince trees are cultivated, counted and protected by hobbyist and professional associations.  Cooking with quince is considered quaint, or even chic.

Romans ate quince in savory and sweet dishes. 

  • They made them into jams and jellies.
  • They cooked them into firm pastes set into wooden molds, then served them as centerpieces at feasts where they were cut up and eaten with meat dishes. 
  • They sautéed them and served them as side dishes.
  • They added them to stews for tartness and as a thickening agent (a very old name for quince is 'summer lemon'). 
  • They used them medicinally for intestinal problems.
  • And they used them as room fresheners.  (I know from experience that a few quince fruit in a bowl will fill the house with a sweet, natural, citrus perfume.)



A quince fruit in Italian is una cotogna or una mela cotogna, plural mele cotogne

The quince tree is un cotogno or a melo cotogno

And quince jam is una cotognata or marmellata di mele cotogne.

Tuscany and Sicily are the regions of Italy most closely associate with quince recipes today.

In Latin, the quince is cotoneum, the genus name is Cydonia Oblonga, or cotoneum malum  or cydonium malum.  Malum is the Latin word for apple.  The Latin quince name comes from the Greek:  kydonion melon or 'Kydonian apple'.



We have a quince tree in our garden and it is my favorite of all our fruit trees for many reasons. 

  • The leaves are a rich blue-green. 
  • The tree is a compact and round tree that will never get higher than 2 meters or so. 
  • It never has bug problems. 
  • And it requires only light pruning to keep the center light and airy to keep away mildew.

Every spring it is covered with tiny pink-white flowers that smell divine.  I fertilize the flowers with an ear swab, starting at one point around the tree, touching the swab to the center of as many flowers as I can reach.  Then it move around the tree and continue fertilizing the flowers with the swab.

By mid-summer I can see the product of my 'quince-sex':  the tree is full of small, green, fuzzy fruit. 

A quince tree can carry more fruit than the average apple tree.  The quince tree is often used as a base for many pear varieties, which are grafted on, so they can bear more fruit and are more resistant to bugs. 

By fall, the small green fruit has grown, turned yellow, and lost much of it's fuzz. 

The day after I pluck them from the tree, the citrus perfume intensifies 1000-fold.  I fill the house with them and we enjoy the scent for as long as we can.



Then I cook them

  • I make jam, paste, puree, and pies and tarts mixed with apples. 
  • I preserve as many as I can so that we can enjoy the lovely, fresh flavor of quince all year round.
  • I preserve some with cinnamon and nutmeg, like a chutney, to serve with meat dishes.
  • I even sauté them and serve them with meat.
  • I don't make them, but you can also make delicious quince juice, quince brandy, and quince liqueur.



There are some funny things about the humble quince...

  • Because a quince is naturally rich in pectin, a natural thickening agent usually made from apple seeds, you can use less sugar to preserve quince, so the marmalade made from quinces is fruiter and can be made naturally lower in sugar than other jams.
  • Some quince jam and jelly recipes have you cook the seeds with the fruit.  This way you get more pectin in your puree, and can use even less sugar. 
  • The word marmalade is from the the Portuguese word marmelo, quince, and marmelado, quince jam.
  • One of the most unusual things about quinces is that when they are cooked, they change color.  The longer you cook them, the darker red they become.  They start out yellow, then change to rose colored, then a rich red wine color.
  • The fruit straight from the tree is often covered with a soft fuzz.  I wash it off, but some cooks suggest you just wipe it off gently with a dry towel.
  • Because quince fruit can have a mild laxative effect, it is considered a good, natural medicine for your intestines.
  • Quince fruit are very, very high in vitamin C.



People have been cooking with quinces throughout the Mediterranean region for centuries.  Quinces play a part in many cultures' rituals.

The cultivation of the quince predates the cultivation of apples in the Mediterranean Sea and Near East, where it is a native plant. 

So in Western mythology and in the Bible, when there is a reference to an 'apple' or a 'golden apple' the reference is really to a quince. 



Some Recipes


Quince Puree

Quince puree is the basis of most quince sweets recipes.  There are two ways of making it:  the traditional way, and the modern way.

Traditional Way: 

  • Clean the quinces of the fuzz. 

  • Quarter the quinces. 

  • Boil the pieces for about 1/2 hour with a quartered lemon, until a fork enters the flesh easily.  The lemon stops the quinces from oxidizing, keeping the color nice a fresh. 

  • Let the quinces cool.  Then cut out the cores and seeds, and peel off the skin (many recipes have you leave the skin on for a greater acidity).

  • Mash up the quince pulp with a fork or with a hand-grinder, or run it through a food processer, to make your puree.

Modern Way:

  • Clean the quinces of the fuzz.

  • Dice the quinces, removing the cores and seeds.

  • Microwave the diced quinces in a glass container covered with a glass top.  Cook it in 5 minute bursts, and between the bursts, mix the fruit around so it cooks evenly.  It should be soft after about 15 minutes of cooking.

  • Mash up the quince pulp with a fork or with a hand-grinder, or run it through a food processer, to make your puree.  This puree comes out slightly dryer than when you use the traditional method, which is better for making a thick quince paste.



Marmellata di mele cotogne - Quince Jam - Cotagnata - Dulce de membrillo

  • Prepare the quince puree as above.

  • Put in a stainless steel pot equal parts puree and sugar.  (You can use less sugar, down to 1/2 the quince puree weight, and still get a nice jam.)

  • Put the quince pot on a burner and stir it continually as it cooks, using a wooden spoon.  Let it boil for at least 1/2 hour.

  • You can add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and/or clove, to taste, for a spicier, 'warmer' jam/chutney.

  • You can jar the jam, or pour it into a mold.  Let the molded jam cool, then turn it out.  It will stay good for quite a while like this, but it is best to refrigerate it.

  • Usually people use the jam or cut off pieces of the mold and spread it on bread, for breakfast.  I find it very filling, holding off hunger for a long time, and it is very nutritious.

This next recipe is from a medieval cookbook from Andalusia Spain that I have on my site.  The recipes from Muslim Spain are precursors for many recipes that are often deemed traditional Italian, or European, recipes. 

Quince jam and jelly are two of such recipes.  The 9th century Muslim rulers of Sicily introduced citrus cultivation and the cultivation of quince to the island, and the recipes for cooking with it, including these recipes.

Quince Paste [quince jam and jelly]

Take a ratl [1 ratl=468g/1lb] of quince, cleaned of its seeds and cut into small pieces.  Pound it well until it is like brains [or grate it].  Cook it with three ratls [1 ratl=468g/1lb] of honey, cleaned of its foam [heated and skimmed], until it takes the form of a paste.

It is also made by another, more amazing recipe:  take it as said before, and cook it in water alone until its essence comes out.  Clean the water of its sediments [filter the liquid from the pulp], and add it to an equal amount of sugar.  Make it thin and transparent, without redness [cook it until it lightens and thickens], and what you have made will remain in this state [a jelly].

Its benefits:  it lightens the belly that suffers from bile, it suppresses bitterness in the mouth, and excites the appetite.  And I say it keeps bad vapors from rising from the stomach to the brain [indigestion].



Quince Paste - Carne de membrillo

  • Prepare the quince puree as above.

  • Put in a stainless steel cooking pot with equal parts puree and sugar.

  • Put the pot on a burner and stir continually as it cooks, using a wooden spoon.  Let it boil for at least 1 hour.  As it cooks, more moisture will escape, and the mixture will darken to a red wine color.

  • Pour it into a mold or a baking dish, keeping the thickness no more than 1 inch or 2 centimeters.

  • In North Africa, they sometimes pour half of the paste into a pan, then cover it with sliced almonds, then pour the rest of the paste over the almonds.

  • Let it cool, then turn it out.  It will stay good for quite a while like this, longer than jam.

  • This paste is often sliced and served with cheese.  And this firm paste is the best basis for the following candy recipes.



Chocolate or Sugar Covered Quince Candies

  • Prepare the quince paste above.

  • Slice it into the candy shapes you want, usually cubes or strips.

  • For sugar-covered candies:  roll the quince pieces in sugar and let them dry on waxed paper overnight.  You can turn them over and let them dry one more day, if you think they are still too damp.  Then store them in an air-tight container.  They remain good for a very long time.

  • For chocolate covered candies:  break a chocolate bar into bits into a bowl.  Microwave it for 30 second intervals, stirring it between the intervals, until it is melted.  (A small amount of chocolate is usually ready in 30 seconds.)  Then drop a few quince pieces into the melted chocolate.  Remove them with a fork, and set them on waxed paper.  They set well 1/2 an hour in a fridge, or a few hours at room temperature.  Store them in an airtight container.



Quince Meringue - Merengue di mele cotogne

For the fruit bottom:

  • 550 grams of cored and diced quince

  • 200 milliliters of sweet Spumanti wine

  • 5-6 teaspoons of sugar

Cook the fruit in the Spumanti and sugar, stirring, until it gets soft (about 15 minutes).

For the meringue:

  • 3 egg whites

  • 100 grams of powdered sugar

  • A pinch of salt

  • A pinch of cinnamon

Whip the egg whites with the salt and cinnamon.  When they begin to stiffen, gradually add the sugar as you continue to whip the whites.  Keep whipping the whites until they are firm and shiny.

This dessert looks classiest when made in individual portions, but it tastes just as good in a large baking dish. 
In a baking cup, put some of the cooked quince, then top decoratively with the whipped whites. 
Cook at a low temperature in the oven for 1 hour (100 degrees Celsius).

(Translated from Italian from the blog Pan con l'olio.  I suggest can you try, too, to mix the cooled fruit gently into the whipped whites and cook them like that in greased cups.  Then sprinkle them with cinnamon just before you serve, ideally with a scoop of vanilla gelato on the side.)



Quince / Apple Tart or Pie

Really, you can adapt any apple recipe to become an Apple and Quince recipe.  They complement each other perfectly.

  • For example, make your tart crust and spread it out in your tart form.  Spread quince puree over the crust, then arrange sliced apples that have been tossed in lemon juice over the jam.  Cook your tart as usual.

  • Or arrange the apples directly on the tart crust, then spoon quince jam over the apples.  Cook your tart as usual.

  • I add quince puree to the apples in my apple pies.  It adds a lemony taste and a pear-like texture, and a heavenly scent to the pies.

  • No apples in this one, but any pumpkin pie recipe you have can be used for quince.  You replace the pumpkin puree with quince puree, making it a quince custard pie, or a quince chiffon pie, or a quince cheesecake...  Yummy!



Some more medieval Sweet and Savory Quince Recipes

Here are some more recipes from the Andalusian Cookbook

The savory dishes are still cooked in this way throughout North Africa and the Middle East.  They give you an idea of how you can use quince in your own cooking with various types of meat. 

The acidity of the quince adds to the dishes, as does the red color when it is cooked a long time, and  quince thicken the sauces of stews.

The sweet dishes stress the medicinal value of the quince for the stomach and intestines.  It can have a slight laxative effect if eaten warm or together with something warm.

Another Dish Which Strengthens the Stomach

Take [dead] sexually mature chickens and clean and put in a pot. Put with them the juice of sour pomegranates [a common ingredient in North African cooking], quinces and apples, and oil and onions and cilantro. [Cook.]

When it is about done, throw in a little mint and some Chinese cinnamon [cassia] and dry coriander, and cover with ten peeled almonds and serve.

A Dish of Safarjaliyya, Good for the Stomach

Kill young chickens and clean and put in a pot [with water]. Put with them crushed garbanzos and cut-up onion. Put on the fire, and boil until done.

Squeeze pomegranate juice and quince juice and pour into the pot, and cover with bread crumbs, and sprinkle tabîkh raihani ["basil near-wine", a mild wine not proscribed by Islam] on it and ladle out and serve.

Safarjaliyya, a Dish Made With Quinces

This is a good food for the feverish, it excites the appetite, strengthens the stomach and prevents stomach vapors from rising to the head.

Take the flesh of a young fat lamb or calf, cut in small pieces and put in the pot with salt, pepper, coriander seed, saffron, oil and a little water. Put on a low fire until the meat is done.

Then take as much as you need of cleaned, peeled quince, cut in fourths. And sharp vinegar, juice of unripe grapes [verjuice] or of pressed quince, and cook for a while and then use [over or mixed with the meat].

If you wish, cover with eggs and it comes out like muthallath.

Safarjaliyya, a Quince Dish

Take meat and cut it in pieces which then throw in a pot. Throw on it two spoons of vinegar and oil, a dirham [1 dirham=3.9g/3/4tsp] and a half of pepper, caraway, coriander seed and pounded onion. Cover it with water and put it on the fire.

Clean three or four or five quinces and chop them up with a knife, as small as you can. Cook them in water. When they are cooked, take them out of the water. When the meat is done throw in it this boiled quince and bring it to the boil two or three times.

Then cover the contents of the pot with two or three eggs and take it off the fire, leave it for a little while. When you put it on the platter, sprinkle it with some pepper, throw on a little saffron and serve it.

Recipe for a Dish of Chicken or Partridge with Quince or Apple

Leave overnight whichever of the two [birds] you have, its throat slit, in its feathers.

Then clean it and put it into a pot and throw in two spoonfuls of rosewater and half a spoonful of good murri [use soy sauce], two spoonfuls of oil, salt, a fennel stalk, a whole onion, and a quarter dirham [1 dirham=3.9g/3/4tsp] of saffron, and water to cover the meat.

Then take quince or apple, skin the outside and clean the inside and cut it up in appropriate-sized pieces, and throw them into the pot. Put it on a moderate fire [and cook it].

When it is done, take it away with a lid over it. Cover it with breadcrumbs mixed with a little sifted flour and five eggs, after removing some of the yolks. Cook it in the pot [over the chicken].

When the coating has cooked, sprinkle it with rosewater and leave it until the surface is clear and stands out apart. Ladle it out, sprinkle it with fine spices and present it.

An Eastern Sweet [sweet pudding]

This is given to feverish people as a food and takes the place of medicine.

Take sweet, peeled almonds and pound them fine. Then extract their liquid with a sieve or clean cloth, until it becomes like milk. Add pomegranate and tart apple juice, pear juice, juice of quince and of roasted gourd, whatever may be available of these. Prepare them with the "juice" squeezed from the almonds by adding some white sugar.

Put it in a glazed earthenware tinjir [pot] and light a gentle fire under it. After boiling, add some dissolved starch paste. [Stir.] When it thickens, put together rose oil and fresh oil and cook on a gentle fire until it thickens. Then take it off the fire and serve it.

If the stomach is weak, add rosewater mixed with camphor.

From the medieval cookbook of Maestro Martino that I have here on my site in old Italian, I have recipes that call for quince:  'pome cotogne'.

  • There is a similar recipe to the pudding above, but Maestro Martino calls for more spices like ginger, cinnamon and saffron, for a 'pome cotogne', quince, soup.]

  • He also has a recipe for a wonderful quince cheesecake.  It is just like modern pumpkin cheesecake, but the pumpkin puree is replaced by quince puree.  Yummy!

  • And he has a recipe for a savory pastry quince snack pie.  The pie crust is wrapped around a half quince that is cored and filled with ground and spiced meat.  It is baked until the quince is soft.

From the medieval cookbook by an Anonymous Venetian that I have here on my site in old Venetian, I have a recipe that calls for quince, 'codogniato', and it is a quince jam and paste made with honey instead of sugar, and with spices.


Adam and Eve's golden apple of knowledge was really a quince.  And the other apples mentioned in the Old and New Testaments were certainly quinces.

Athena's golden apple of wisdom was really a quince.

The Greek goddess Hera's garden of the Hesperides, where her immortality-giving quince were cultivated and protected by three nymphs, was in Andalucía, the quince-growing capital of Spain.

Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of Love, is associated with the quince, and it was given as a gift at Greek weddings to inspire the couple to greater love.  And in some places in Europe, the quince represents fertility and love, and is associated with childbirth.


Two books about Quince


"Simply Quince is the first tribute to the quince in culinary history. Barbara Ghazarian masterfully presents the tree fruit’s versatility, floral aroma, and unique flavor and color in 70 easy, trendsetting recipes, full of legend, history, culture, and scientific tidbits. Simply Quince contains a myriad of new ways to prepare quince for both the formal and casual dining experience."



"Quince and fig must be the most romantic of all European fruits, perhaps because they are among the oldest, perhaps because the luxury of their perfume and texture provokes the most enthusiastic of responses in the poetry and prose of Persia, of Greece, and of the West itself.

'The Dutch author Ria Loohuizen has already written The Elder and The Chestnut, published by Prospect Books, and here she offers the same blend of history, anecdote, literary reference and recipes in respect of the fig and the quince.

Because the quince has so particular and pungent a flavour, anticipating in some ways the citrus fruits of the later modern era, it was the precursor ingredient of many marmalades (the word was indeed coined for the quince) and conserves. She therefore includes a brief look at sugar in early-modern cookery as preface to a section on quince pastes (of which the Spanish membrillo is the most famous modern version).

'Her recipes range wider than Europe, including Persia to the east and North Africa to the south, for the stamping grounds of these fruits were far greater than merely the West. Some of them are truly enticing: chicken with quince and walnut sauce; quince sherbet; Turkish stuffed quinces; quince mostarda; savoy cabbage with fennel and quince; anchovy and fig sauce with fried shrimp; stuffed figs with olive oil ice cream; rabbit with figs; fig bread from the Maghreb; and fig tagine. "


Since Turkey is the world's largest cultivator of quinces, producing half the world's cultivated quinces, it stands to reason that they would have the most varied recipes for the quince.

Check out Binnur's Turkish Cookbook site to see all the wonderful quince recipes online with easy to follow recipes, both savory and sweet.

Search the site for the word 'quince' to see a list of the quince recipes.  The search box is in the right column a bit down from the top of the main page.

Here are some mouthwatering images of some of the quince dishes.

Lamb-Quince Stew

Baked Quince with Cream

Quince-Nut Sweet Baked Dessert

And here is a Moroccan recipe for a Quince Meat Stew