Quinces-The Golden Fruits - Ancient recipes

Joined Jul 24, 2001
The Quince has been under cultivation since very remote times. It is a native of Persia and Anatolia and perhaps also of Greece and the Crimea, though it is doubtful if in the latter localities the plant is not a relic of former cultivation. It is certain that the ancient Greeks knew a common variety, upon which they grafted scions of a better variety, which they obtained from Cydon in Crete, from which place the fruit derived its name of Cydonia, of which the English name Quince is a corruption.

Ancient authors as Athenaeus, confuse quinces with apples that's why in texts we find them as " winter apples".

In old English literature we find the fruit called a Coyne, as in the Romaunt of the Rose and the old English Vocabularies of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, this name being adapted from the French coin, whence Middle English Coin, Quin, the plural quins, becoming corrupted to the singular Quince.

The Quince as we know it in Europe and States is a different fruit to that of Western Asia and tropical countries, where the fruit becomes softer and more juicy.

In colder climates, the fruit is of a fine, handsome shape, of a rich golden colour when ripe and has a strong fragrance, by some judged to be rather heavy and overpowering. The rind is rough and woolly and the flesh harsh and unpalatable, with an astringent, acidulous taste. In hotter countries, the woolly rind disappears and the fruit can be eaten raw.

This is the case not only in Eastern countries, where it is much prized, but also in those parts of tropical America to which the tree has been introduced from Europe. This explains the fact that it figured so prominently in classical legends. It was very widely cultivated in the East and especially in Palestine, and many commentators consider that the Tappuach of Scripture, always translated Apple, was the Quince.

It is also supposed to be the fruit alluded to in the Canticles, 'I sat down under his shadow with great delight and his fruit was sweet to my taste'; and in Proverbs, 'A word fitly spoken is like Apples of gold in pictures of silver.'

Pliny, who speaks at length of the medicinal virtues of the Quince, says that the fruit warded off the influence of the evil eye, and other legends connect it with ancient Greek mythology, as exemplified by statues on which the fruit is represented, as well as by representations in the wall-paintings and mosaics of Pompeii, where Quinces are almost always to be seen in the paws of a bear.

By the Greeks and Romans, the Quince was held sacred to Venus, who is often depicted with a Quince in her right hand, the gift she received from Paris. The 'golden Apples' of Virgil are said to be Quinces, as they were the only 'golden' fruit known in his time, oranges having only been introduced into Italy at the time of the Crusades.

The fruit, being dedicated to Venus, was regarded as the symbol of Love and Happiness, and Plutarch mentions the bridal custom of a Quince being shared by a married pair. Quinces sent as presents, or shared, were tokens of love. The custom was handed down, and throughout the Middle Ages Quinces were used at every wedding feast, as we may read in a curious book, The Praise of Musicke:
'I come to marriages, wherein as our ancestors did fondly and with a kind of doating, maintaine many rites and ceremonies, some whereof were either shadowes or abodements of a pleasant life to come, as the eating of a Quince Peare to be a preparative of sweet and delightful dayes between the married persons.'

Quinces are mentioned among the curious recipes in Manuscripts relating to domestic life in England. Wynkyn de Worde, in the Boke of Kervynge, speaks of 'char de Quynce,' and John Russell, in the Boke of Nurture, speaks of 'chare de Quynces' - the old name for Quince Marmalade.

This preserve is now practically the only use made of the Quince as an article of food, though it is sometimes added to apple-tarts, to improve their flavour, but in Shakespeare's time, Browne spoke of the fruit as 'the stomach's comforter, the pleasing Quince,' and a little later, Parkinson says:
'There is no fruit growing in the land that is of so many excellent uses as this [the Quince], serving as well to make many dishes of meat for the table, as for banquets, and much more for their physical virtues.'
Joined Jul 24, 2001
The first recipe belongs to Apicius and it is tested by a member of another forum regarding ancient cooking :)

Patina de Cydoneis: -Apicius 164
Mala Cydonia cumporris, melle, liquamine, oleo, defrito
coques et inferes, vel elixata ex melle

(Quince Patina: stew quinces with leeks, honey, garum, and oil, cook and
serve; also boiled with honey)

Based on Dalby/Grainger’s recipe for the Patina de Piris( pears)

1.5 Lbs quinces
10 fl oz defrutum
2 TBS clear honey
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS garum
3 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Peal quinces, core and chop roughly.
2. Mix all liquids in pot, and stew the quinces until soft.
3. Process until smooth, then add eggs, and process again.
4. Pour into greased casserole dish and bake until tester comes out clean.

To Preserve Quinces ( Medieval recipe)

From Archimagirus Anglo-Gallicus; Or, Excellent & Approved Receipts and Experiments in Cookery, 1658

Take Quinces and weigh them, core and pare them, then take for every pound of Quinces a pound of Sugar; then take Quinces and grate them and strain them; for every pound half a pint as the juyce of the Quinces, and half a pint of fair water; the water, and sugar, and syrrop must be first boyled and clean skimmed, then put in your Quinces and turn them still to keep the colour of them: then let them boyl so till the Quinces be tender, they must seethe very softly, for fear of breaking; and ever as the scumme ariseth, you must take it off with a feather.

source: the godecookery book.

Baked Quinces Farmer, Fannie Merritt,1918, The Boston Cooking School Cook Book.

Wipe, quarter, core, and pare eight quinces. Put in a baking dish, sprinkle with three-fourths cup sugar, add one and one-half cups water, cover, and cook until soft in a slow oven. Quinces require a long time for cooking.

source : bartelby.com
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Not a recipe, but I thought of some interest.

Painters in Spains golden age captured the poverty of the table with their stark leitmotifs of hunger. Juan sanchez Cotans Still life with quince, cabbage, melon and cucumber , painted in about 1600, is a spare minimilist still life that could pass as a contemporary painting. A quince and cabbage are suspended in the midair with strings while the melon and cucumber law on a windoe ledge. This is all there is to the painting: food as objects to be desired, not actually eaten.

Velazquez's melancholy Old woman cooking eggs painted in 1618, is just what it says, a painting of eggs, food that the poor could hope for.


The Arabs, in AD 763, built ther round city in the valley of the Tiggris where Kish and babylon, Seleucia and Ctesiphon had once flourished. Outside the walls of the city gathered an extrodinary medly of people, Arabs and Syrians, Persians and Turks, a population in whose viens ran the blood of Greeks, Parthians, Sassanids even the Romans.

Soon Bagdad became the great warehouse of it's time, filled with products of the east. From it's Arab and Rhadanite Jews journeyed to China for cinnomon and rhubard (important for medicine) and to India for for coconuts, others went to Bacria for grapes, to Isfahan for honey,quinces , apples, saffron and salt. to Mosul for quails and to Hulwan for pomagranites, figs and vinager sauces.


Joined Apr 4, 2000
Athenaeus I'm just curious, what are defrutum and garum?

Joined Jan 11, 2002
Defrutum was a condiment made with grape must, boiled until reduced to a half.
Garum (the most famous, and disgusting! latin sauce) was made with small fish and their entrails, leaved in the sun for days until fermented. The resulting, nauseating substance was filtered through a basket. The liquid part was the Garum, while the solid part which remained in the basket was the Allec.
Roman cooks put Garum almost in every dish...:p

Joined Jan 11, 2002
My family has a holiday home in a valley of the Dolomites region, the Val di Non, which is famous as the main Italian producer of apples. This home was built by my grandfather in 1920 and I went there for my first time when I was only 1 month old.
It's surrounded by a piece of land where many trees are growing and some of them are very old quince trees. We have always used those quinces to make jams and jellies without caring much of them.
Three years ago we called someone to prune the trees as they were becoming wild. As the guy (who was pretty expert, since most people living in Val di Non is involved in apple tree cultivation) saw our quinces, ran away very excited and came back the day after with a doctor of the Apple Consortium.
We found out that the fruits of our trees were a new hybrid between quinces and apples, something previously unknown and probably due to a mutation. They tested our apples and it resulted they have exceptionally good features and a special taste! The funniest thing is that they won a prize for the "Best Apfelstrudel Apple" during an event when many Strudels were baked with different apples, and "blind" tasters judged them:D
So, we gave those people the permission to take away some cuttings from our trees, and a whole orchard is now growing. Since the Consortium is planning to start a business, I hope we'll get something more than the glory from this...:)

Joined Jan 11, 2002
Oh! I forgot to say that the Italian word for Quince is "COTOGNA", the link with Cydonia being even more direct...

Joined Jan 11, 2002
if they'll do it, I promise you from now that I'll get to you at least 10 boxes of Pongi Quinces!

Joined Jul 24, 2001
Hmmm another good reason to visit Italy . I have to check on those ancient Pongian Quinces :D

Great story Pongi thank you.

Isa I think that I will start a thread about this basic ingredient of ancient cooking : garum armoricum.

As for defructum it's a kind of mollasse. If you are close to a Greek grocery store ask for petimezi :)
Joined Jul 31, 2000

I hope you start this thread, it would be a great oppurtunity to learn about garum, I recall a member poireau a while back getting involved with garum in one of his/her threads.

Can I ask one question? is there a difference between garum armoricum and garum sociorum?


Joined Apr 4, 2000
Thank you Pongi and Athenaeus for the explanations.

Now I'm not so sure I'd try any of those.

Are they still eaten today?
Joined Apr 26, 2001

These are interesting recipes, although I hope you don't really consider Fanny Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cookbook to be "ancient." (That makes me feel really old : I use that cookbook, and in fact that baked quince recipe.)

Here are a few other old recipes:

From The Compleat Cook (1662): To Keep Quinces Raw All the Year.

Take some of the worst Quinces and cut them into small pieces, and Coares and Parings, boyle them in water, and put to a Gallon of water, some three spoonsful of Salt, as much Honey; boyle these together till they are very strong, and when it is cold, put it into half a pint of vinegar in a wooden Vessel or Earthen Pot; and take then as many of your best Quinces as will go into your Liquor, and then stop them up very close that no Aire get into them, and they will keep all the year.

From Hugh Plat, Delights for Ladies, to Adorn Their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories (1635): To make Quidinia of Quinces

Take the kernels out of eight great Quinces, and boile them in a quart of spring water, till it come to a pint; then put into it a quarter of a pint of Rose-water, and one pound of fine sugar, and so let it boile till you see it come to be of a deep colour; then take a drop, and drop it on the bottome of a sawcer; and if it stand, take it off; then let it runne thorow a gelly bagge into a bason: then set on your bason upon a chafing dish of coales, to keep it warm; then take a spoone, and fill your boxes as full as you please, and when they bee cold, cover them: and if you please to print it in moulds, you must have moulds made to the bignesse of your boxe, and wet your moulds with Rose-water, and so let it run into your mould, and when it is cold, turn it off into your boxes. If you wet your moulds with water, your gelly will fall out of them.

From Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook, or the Art and Mystery of Cookery (1678): Pickeld Quinces the best way

1. Take quinces not cored not pared, boil them in fair water not too tender, and put them up in a barrel, fill it up with their liquior and close on the head.
2. Pare them and boil them with white-wine, whole cloves, cinnamon, and slic't ginger, barrel them up and keep them.
3. Put in the juyce of sweet apples, not cored, but wiped and put up raw.
4. In white-wine barrell'd up raw.
5. Being pared and cored, boil them up in sweet-wort and sugar, keep them in a glazed pipkin close covered.
6. Core them and save the cores, cut some of the crab-quinces, and boil them after the quinces be parboil'd and taken up; then boil the cores, and some of the crab-quinces in quarters, the liquor being boil'd, strain it thorow a strainer, put it in the barrel with the quinces, and close up the barrel.

[Actually, this last recipe is 6 ways to handle quinces, not "the" best way.]

From The Accomplish't Ladies Delight in Preserving, Physick, Beauttifying and Cookery (1684):

Take a Gallon of Flower, a pound and half of butter, six Eggs, thirty Quinces, three pound of sugar, half an ounce of Cinamon, half an ounce of Ginger, half an ounce of Cloves, and Rose-water; make them into a Tart, and being baked, strew on double refined sugar.
Joined Jan 11, 2002
As for Garum, we are looking forward to a new thread by Athenaeus!
As for Defrutum and quinces, please consider this traditional Piemontese recipe:


7000 gr must (possibly from Dolcetto or Nebiolo grapes)
1500 gr quinces
1500 gr pears (Martin Sec)
500 gr granulated sugar
12 figs (fresh or dried)
10 walnuts
15 hazelnuts
1 lemon
3-4 pieces cinnamon
6-7 cloves

Pour the must into a large pot, bring slowly to the boil and cook until reduced to 40%.
Cut all the fruits in pieces; shell and toast the nuts and cut them in pieces. Add everything (spices included) to the must reduction and boil, stirring frequently, until reduced to 50-60% and very thick. Put in glass jars and sterylize, like a jam.

You could believe it's just a curiosity...but this is one of the most delicious relishes I've ever tasted! Born to accompany boiled meats, it's also wonderful with matured cheese like Castelmagno or Pecorino. If you (like me!;) ) don't have the time to look for must (and to stir into the pot for some hours) it's commercially produced by some small companies and available also on Internet.

Joined Jul 24, 2001
Trying to compose an answer to Cape Chef's query about arab fragnancies, I opened a very nice book: Medieval Arab Cookery, it has a large collection od ancient recipes with extened comments .

I came upon this recipe but you know me, I did some search in Internet first to check similar Arabic recipies from Arabic fora.
I came upon a chef that wants to be reffered as Anahita al-Qurtubiyya bint abd al-Karim al-Fassi...
This chef is proposing a contemporary recipe based on the medieval one.

I attach the recipe as well. :)

Laimun Safarzali-Lemon-Quince-Rosewater Syrup Beverage

One part quince juice and three parts filtered syrup, in both of which you have boiled pieces of quince until nearly done. They are taken up, and the syrup takes it consistency. To every pound of the whole you add two ounces of lemon juice. Then return the pieces of quince; they improve the consistency. It is scented with musk, saffron and rose-water and taken up and used.
(Familiar Foods, p. 442-443, "Medieval Arab Cookery")

The modern version

2 dozen quinces
5 - 8 pounds granulated white sugar
juice of 12 lemons
several capsful rosewater, Cortas brand
Cut quinces in quarters. Core and remove flower and stem ends. Cut further into eighths (that is, each quince is ultimately cut in eight pieces).
Put quinces in deep kettle, cover with water and turn fire to high.
Pour in 5 lb. sugar. Stir well.
When liquid begins to boil, reduce fire to medium and continue to simmer, stirring frequently so bottom of pan doesn't burn.
Do NOT mash quinces. I did and it was a BIG mistake. I did not get enough syrup, although the mashed quinces were delicious.
When liquid has thickened and has become a lovely amber-rose color - many hours later - remove from heat and allow to cool.
When cool enough to manage, put a strainer over a deep bowl, and begin scooping out quinces and liquid. Allow to strain without mashing or pressing fruit. Remove resulting liquid to another large container.
After you've drained the quinces well, and syrup has cooled, check the consistency and flavor. It should be somewhat syrupy and have a tart-sweet flavor. It doesn't need to be clear. In fact, the original recommends having some fruity bits in it, so you can add some mashed quince at this point. If syrup isn't sweet enough, put in kettle on high fire, add more sugar, stir well, bring to boil, then reduce to high simmer, and cook down a little more.
When syrup is thoroughly cooled, add lemon juice and rose water.
To drink, fill a pitched about 2/3 full of water and add a bit of syrup. Taste. Add more syrup until you are satisfied (the commercial syrup, much denser than mine, is diluted 1 to 5). It should have a sweet-tart flavor, redolent of quinces and roses.

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