Ancient Romans used the flowers and fruit of the quince tree for everything from perfume to honey. It was also considered a symbol of love and given to one's intended as a sign of commitment. Though the quince has been around for over 4,000 years throughout Asia and the Mediterranean countries, it's never been particularly popular with Americans. This yellow-skinned fruit looks and tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear. The hard, yellow-white flesh is quite dry and has an astringent, tart flavor, which makes it better cooked than raw. Quinces are available in supermarkets from September through December. Select those that are large, firm and yellow with little or no sign of green. Wrap in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 2 months; peel before using in cooked dishes. Because the quince has such an astringently tart flavor and high pectin content, Europeans have traditionally used it to make jams, jellies and preserves. Quince paste has a very firm texture akin to that of a gumdrop. The Spanish call it membrillo (also crema de membrillo dulce de membrillo), and in France it's known as pâte de coings (or cotignac). Quince paste is a classic accompaniment for cheese, with a very thin slice of it served atop a slice of cheese. Quince paste is sometimes referred to as or although those mixtures are typically softer and spreadable.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.