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.

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30 thoughts on “The Quince And The Cordial

  1. Thanks Urvashi — there’s some­thing so sat­is­fy­ing about cook­ing two things at once, you’re right.

  2. I like this fable — everyone’s a win­ner. So many fant­ast­ic quince recipes around — I’m going to have to get a tree of my own.

  3. Charlie, I just love the way you write. I’m wait­ing for a book of your food mus­ings! And the photo of the quince and green chair is fab too. Px

  4. What a won­der­ful recipe, I love the idea of freez­ing the cor­di­al, it sounds like it would make a fant­ast­ic cock­tail. I made a quince vodka which is matur­ing away in. Dark cup­board, as well as quince and ginger pre­serves. But if I can get any more quinces I will be mak­ing this. Fab!

  5. Quince and fables go so well togeth­er, and indeed I have nev­er judged a quince by its cov­er and have a long stand­ing love affair with them, but please don’t tell anyone.…..wonderful post about my favour­ite fruit.

  6. Thank you so much, Kar­en. I adore quince too, but until this year I’d nev­er grown them before. I’m a slightly clue­less garden­er, but the quince seemed to take care of them­selves

  7. I adore the sound of quince vodka, A Trifled Rushed. How deli­cious. And it’s no doubt the same amaz­ing pink as the cor­di­al is.

  8. Charlie, this is bril­liant! Your words, your lan­guage is delect­ible, lus­cious, tan­tal­iz­ing… beau­ti­ful. And the fable is as won­der­ful as the whole idea of the Quince Cor­di­al. With pro­secco, of course… Per­fect post!

  9. I love love love quince, but around here no one grows them, sadly mak­ing them stu­pidly expens­ive at the store. My mom used to make quince and wal­nut pre­serves and I have a recipe for a poached quince pie. Now I just need to get my hands on a few of these beau­ties. Your cor­di­al sounds lovely, and I’m sure the pink syr­up topped with bub­bly pro­secco would look and taste amaz­ing.

  10. I love the idea of mak­ing quince cor­di­al. I found my first quinces at the mar­ket a week or so ago — I cooked them on the stove with but­ter to go with rice pud­ding (just pos­ted it if you’re inter­ested!) and I’ve got anoth­er recipe I want to try soon.

    I love the way they need cook­ing to bring them alive.

  11. Jam­ie, what can I say? It’s char­ac­ter­ist­ic­ally gen­er­ous of you and appre­ci­ated a huge amount. Thank you so much.

  12. Hi Anna I love the sound of a quince and wal­nut pre­serve — what a com­bin­a­tion. This is the first year I’ve grown quince. It seemed to involve no effort on my part and the har­vest was huge!

  13. Hi Poires au Chocol­at
    I will cer­tainly take a look at your post. I adore rice pud­ding — my Granny used to make the per­fect ver­sion, so it always makes me feel nos­tal­gic.

  14. Quinces have got to be deli­cious because they look so invit­ing, and their pho­to­gen­i­city is well shown by your lovely pic­tures. One of your most pop­u­lar posts and with good reas­on.

  15. I agree with Pas­cale — food mus­ings book please. I could smell those quinces when I read this (on my Black­berry with no images). Incred­ible glasses by the way — now cov­et quinces and cock­tails!

  16. So kind of you, Sally. One day, I hope… The glasses, by the way, are really single flower vases. But I think they make bet­ter cock­tail glasses.…

  17. Great quince ideas. I bought some quince wine once at a loc­al medi­ev­al fair in Ger­many and made granta out of it but this idea is far bet­ter.

  18. Hav­ing just had my first quince ever I can only ima­gine how good this must be. Love the fable and if I can get my hands on some more quince I am going to be mak­ing this!

  19. I do hope you find some more before the sea­son ends, Jungle­frog. They’re very spe­cial fruit I think… Thanks so much for leav­ing a com­ment — always good to hear from you…

  20. I must remem­ber to thank Mary at Mrs Miniver’s Daugh­ter for send­ing me your way. I’m always on the look out for new quince recipes. Quince cor­di­al is not some­thing I have made inten­tion­ally but I have drunk the syr­up leftover from poach­ing quinces with pro­secco. I make quince vodka every year which is deli­cious.

  21. Hello Sue and wel­come to Eggs On The Roof. I love the sound of your quince vodka. I still have a few quinces left and will try mak­ing some too. How do you make yours?

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