The Quince And The Cordial

Aesop really should have writ­ten a fable about the quince, in which this con­crete wreck­ing ball of a fruit is enticed into love­li­ness by the inter­ven­tion of a little lov­ing care.

I’ve always admired the truc­u­lence of the quince. Its exquis­ite per­fume and plumply yel­low fruit give the impres­sion of easy, yield­ing grace. But circle your fin­gers around a quince and you will find it as hard and unwel­com­ing as a winter’s morn­ing. Never was there such a mis­match between looks and char­ac­ter. Once you know how to cajole it, though, a quince becomes the thing you always thought it was going to be from the start — sweet, del­ic­ate and fragrant.

So to make up for the fable that Aesop for­got to write, here is the tale of The Quince And The Cordial.


  • 12 quinces, left whole
  • 850ml water
  • 350g caster sugar

I have the bril­liant chef Skye Gyn­gell to thank for this idea. Pre­heat the oven to 150 degrees C. Wash the quinces and rub them dry with a cloth, to remove the soft fuzz that adorns them. Don’t bother to peel or core them, but simply line them up in a bak­ing tray. Sprinkle over the sugar and pour in the water. Cover with alu­minium foil and bake in the oven for between 3 to 4 hours.

My quinces were very large and needed the full 4 hours to be rendered soft and for the juice to be richly pink. Allow the quinces to cool in the liquid. Remove the fruit and tip the juice into a jug. My quinces made 1 litre of cor­dial. It will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge, but I prefer to decant mine into small plastic bottles and freeze it. That way I can pluck a bottle tri­umphantly out of the freezer whenever needed, for an impromptu, showy cock­tail. The rule is 50/50 of cor­dial to pro­secco, spark­ling apple juice or fizzy water with ice.

The really clever part of this fable is that hav­ing extrac­ted your cor­dial you are still left with the cooked fruit them­selves. Slice the quinces and serve them with Greek yoghurt, maple syrup and per­haps some toasted hazel­nuts. Or tuck pieces of cooked quince amongst the apples when mak­ing an apple crumble.

The moral of this fable is, of course, that you should never judge a quince by its cover.