Quince may be one of Nature’s most magical fruits. Indigenous to the rocky slopes of Southwest Asia and Iran, Quince fruit is relatively unknown in the US. These days, more and more specialty grocers are carrying quince in their produce sections however most of the time customers are perplexed on what to use them for.
A late autumn and cold weather fruit, quince is naturally perfumed and usually cooked in stews, tagines, with meats, or in pies or jams. Because of its tart flavor, it is not broadly eaten raw.
I think the hands-down best way to showcase quince are in jam form. When cooked in the proper Persian technique, the quince (known as Beh) transforms from pale yellow to a bright, jewel red and it is not only visually stunning but tastes sweet and delicious.
Quince jam works great paired with strong cheeses. Serve with Feta for a traditional Persian breakfast, or topped on crackers with blue cheese for a tasty appetizer, pictured here. I’m also a big fan of drizzling it over ice cream for an evening treat, or mixing it with yogurt for a healthy alternative.
This recipe requires minimal ingredients and allows the Quince’s natural fragrance and flavor to shine through. Typical of many Persian jam recipes (morabah), no pectin or gelatin products are added to the recipe, just good old fashion time and patience perfect the product.
Start by washing and cutting a few pounds of quince into slices. (You can actually save the seeds and use as an old Persian alternative for a cough drop as well)
Dissolve a few cups of sugar in some water and bring to a gently simmer on low heat.
Add the quince slides and made sure they are covered in liquid. Cook gently until the quince are cooked through and soft, which will usually take at least an hour.
You can stir the quince but be very gentle as to not break the individual slices. Technically it doesn’t impact the flavor of the jam but keeping the slices whole is more aesthetically pleasing. Try to keep the quince submerged in the liquid. I find it’s easiest to use a slotted spoon for this.
Continue simmering on a low heat and cover with a “Damkoni”, below. A Damkoni is a thick towel or bolster that fits over the pot and absorbs some of the excess steam from what you are cooking. This technique is also used for making Persian rice which I will cover at another time. You can use a few layers of paper towel if you don’t have a damkoni.
Keep covered with the damkoni, simmering and stirring gently, while keeping the quince submerged in the liquid for another 2-3 hours.
This is when the magic occurs. While it’s cooking with the Damkoni, the quince starts changing color and becomes a beautiful red wine color. Without the damkoni, you won’t be able to achieve the transformation.
After 4-5 total hours of a slow and steady simmer, you have yourself 3-ingredient Quince Jam.
Not just for us Persians anymore.
2 pounds quince fruit
3 cups granulated sugar
1.5 cup water