Most varieties of quince are too hard, astringent and sour to eat raw unless ‘bletted’ (softened by frost and subsequent decay). High in pectin, they are used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding, or they may be peeled, then roasted, baked or stewed. The flesh of the fruit turns red after a long cooking time. The very strong perfume means they can be added in small quantities to apple pies and jam to enhance the flavour. Adding a diced quince to apple sauce will enhance the taste of the apple sauce with the chunks of relatively firm, tart quince. The term “marmalade”, originally meaning a quince jam, derives from “marmelo,” the Portuguese word for this fruit.
The fruit, like so many others, can be used to make a type of wine. Because of its often high acidity, which is mainly due to its malic acid content, these wines are, more often than not, sweet dessert wines that are high in alcohol. In the Balkans and elsewhere, quince brandy is made. In Carolina in 1709, John Lawson allowed that he was “not a fair judge of the different sorts of Quinces, which they call Brunswick, Portugal and Barbary”, but he noted “of this fruit they make a wine or liquor which they call Quince-Drink, and which I approve of beyond any that their country affords, though a great deal of cider and perry is there made, The Quince-Drink most commonly purges.”
Varieties of quince, such as ‘Kuganskaya’, have been developed that do not require cooking and are eaten raw.
In Iran, quince is used for making jams (or as it said in Farsi “Morabba”) which is very popular and delicious. The extra syrup of jam is mixed with cold water to make a sweet drink. This drink sometimes served by adding lime juice. Also, Iranians use quince to make a stew (with beef stew) which is served with rice.
In Lebanon and Syria, it is called sfarjel and also used to make jam- Mrabba sfarjal. In Syria, quince is cooked in pomegranate paste (dibs rouman) with shank meat and kibbeh (a Middle Eastern meat pie with burghul and mince meat) and is called kibbeh safarjalieh. In Pakistan, quinces are stewed with sugar until they turn bright red. The resulting stewed quince, called muraba is then preserved in jars and eaten like jam.
In Latin America, the gel-like, somewhat adhesive substance surrounding the seeds was used to shape and style hair.
In Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela the membrillo, as the quince is called in Spanish, is cooked into a reddish, jelly-like block or firm, reddish paste known as dulce de membrillo. It is then eaten in sandwiches and with cheese, traditionally manchego cheese, or accompanying fresh curds. In Portugal, a similar sweet is called marmelada. It is also produced and consumed in Hungary, where it is called birsalmasajt, “quince cheese”. The sweet and floral notes of carne de membrillo (quince meat) contrast nicely with the tanginess of the cheese. Boiled quince is also popular in desserts such as the murta con membrillo that combines Ugni molinae with quince. Similar dishes exist in Dalmatia and Croatia.
In the Canary Islands and some places in South America, a quince is used to play an informal beach toss-and-swim game, usually among young teens. When mixed with salt water, a mature quince will turn its sour taste to sweet. The game is played by throwing a quince into the sea. All players race to catch the quince and whoever catches it, takes one bite and tosses the quince again, then the whole process gets repeated until the quince is fully eaten.
In the Alsace region of France and the Valais region of Switzerland, liqueur de coing made from quince is used as a digestif.
Quince can also be used as a tea additive to mainly green tea, giving it a rather sweetish taste and scent.