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.


  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.Karen

  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. Thanks Mitzi Fritz – let me know if you make the cordial. I'd love to hear what you think of it…

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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….

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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…

  21. 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.

  22. 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?

  23. Thanks very much Sue – I'll take a look. I can feel some home-made Christmas presents coming along.

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