Recipe: Slow Cooked Quinces with Vanilla and Cardamom

quincesbowlI’ll just be honest and say that the main point of this recipe is to have quinces cooking in your kitchen all afternoon, making the house smell amazing.  But the end product is actually delicious too, though not quite as delicious as the aroma – it’s heady and sweet and fruity and all the things you want from quince, and it tastes fabulous with yoghurt and maybe some pomegranate seeds or pistachios sprinkled over the top, so it’s not solely a somewhat expensive room perfumer…

Also, you can use the syrup over ice-cream, or to poach other fruits, or probaby even as a basis for a sorbet.  It’s beautiful, perfumed stuff.  And wonderfully, glowingly red.

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4 quinces
375 g sugar (plain white sugar is fine, and it’s generally the cheapest option, too)
750 ml water (which you can in fact get from the tap)
1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp cardamom pods, squashed with a heavy knife to split them partly open, and pods and any escaped seeds added to the mix

Now what will you do with it?

Put the sugar, spices and water into an oven-safe saucepan large enough to hold all the quinces, and heat slowly, letting the sugar dissolve before it comes to the boil.


Preheat the oven to 150°C.

Peel the quinces and quarter them.  Mind your fingers, because quinces are like slippery rocks, and they want you to shed blood as the price of that gorgeous aroma.  Add the quince quarters to the syrup as you prepare them – they discolour very fast once exposed to oxygen.

Bring everything to the boil, and simmer for a few minutes, before transferring to the oven.

quince raw

Bake at 150°C for about 4 hours, or until the quinces are deep red.

Check them every hour, like this…

quince 1hr

and this…


and this…


Once the quinces are beautiful, use a slotted spoon to remove them very gently from the syrup (they will be very, very soft by now), and place them in a bowl.  I recommend using a red glass bowl or similar, to enhance the glorious redness of the situation.  Put the saucepan back onto the stove (please remember to use oven mitts, because that saucepan has been in the oven and it’s all too easy to forget this and burn your hands), and bring the syrup to a fast boil until it’s reduced by about half – really what you are watching for is the bubbles coming more slowly, and when you ladle out a little syrup with a spoon and drizzle it back into the saucepan, it should fall in a shining thread, not droplets.  I’m sorry, I don’t have a photograph of this, because I would probably have dropped my phone into the syrup if I had tried, and candied iPhone is not palatable.

Add the syrup back to the quinces or the quinces back to the syrup.


You can either serve this hot, or bring it to room temperature, or chill it in the fridge (if you keep the quinces submerged in syrup, they will keep for weeks).  I’d serve a couple of pieces of quince with a little syrup spooned over them, and a dollop of Greek yoghurt, garnished with some pistachios or pomegranate seeds.  I might also add a little rosewater or cointreau to the syrup after it is reduced but before adding the quinces back into it, because I’m just that sort of Catherine.



Honestly, this is poached fruit – you can do just about anything with it.  I’ve just thought of doing mulled quinces, for example – use red wine instead of water in the syrup, and add a cinnamon stick, some cloves, shaved nutmeg, and a curl of orange zest.  Glorious.  Diana Henry has a version with red wine and rosemary syrup, and that would also be very, very good.

And of course, there’s no reason why you have to use quinces – pears or apples also work, though they won’t smell nearly as amazing (and one hour should be more than sufficient to get them poached, I would think), and you won’t get the glorious colour change which is the magical thing about quinces in my view.


This time last year…


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10 comments for “Recipe: Slow Cooked Quinces with Vanilla and Cardamom

  1. March 27, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    oh when are they bringing in scratch and sniff blogs – I really want to smell your kitchen – I love quinces but often miss the season because it just seems to whizz by while I am eating other things – must find some to cook

    • Catherine
      March 27, 2013 at 9:12 pm

      I just want the scratch and sniff blogs to come in right now! How glorious would that be? I cook by smell anyway, so it would be doubly marvellous to me…

  2. March 29, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    It’s really bad, but I am still yet to try quinces. Ever year I see recipes for them and every year I say I’ll find some…and then I don’t. Perhaps I should just give up and then I might manage it 😛

    • Catherine
      March 30, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      Well, they don’t tend to show up in supermarkets. I’m lucky, because I live in a very Middle-Eastern sort of area, so all our greengrocers have them.

  3. Sasha
    May 11, 2014 at 5:06 am

    I cook quinces in winter compot together with naturally organic dry fruits which already full of natural fructose hence no need to add that much refined white sugar
    My compot is very similar dish except very liquidy -watery and one can use similar spices plus some sweet wine
    It’ll keep in the fridge for weeks and is very delicious

  4. Lynette Amaterstein
    June 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Have cooked these for my family Catherine and they are delicious!
    I am able to get the quinces directly from a friend’s tree so really fresh.
    Thank you.

    • Catherine
      June 15, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      That sounds fabulous, Lynette! I wish I had a quince tree! I’m very glad the recipe worked for you.

  5. Lb12c
    August 16, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Do you put them in the oven with a lid on or open.

  6. Carol Strickman
    November 1, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    I followed this recipe today using 10 quince. I added less sugar and water than what 2.5 times the recipe would call for, and it it was plenty sweet for me. I cut the fruit up a little smaller and it only took 3 hours. You don’t need to put a lid on it in the oven. My question is about cardamom pods — do you throw the pods right in, or do you split them open and put the seeds in without the pod shells? Not knowing, I did both, and split some of the seed pods after they had softened in the oven. Anyway, the end result was delicious! A friend had given me 16 quince and I had no idea what do with them. So glad I found this recipe! Thanks!

    • Catherine
      November 1, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      Hi Carol,

      It’s been a little while since I made this one, so I’m not sure I remember what I did! But I would imagine I squashed the pods with the side of a heavy knife and put them into the syrup half-opened with some seeds coming out.

      Kind regards,


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