Quince, how do I love thee. That’s right. I have a soft spot in my heart for this exotic fruit (for pomegranates too, remember?). I like to eat it as is, skin and all, and I also like it in the form of preserves. Quince in Azerbaijan is especially delicious and the land of my ancestors, the region of Ordubad, produces the juiciest quince of all, as juicy as apples, and I am not exaggerating.
Quince that I find in California markets is not as juicy, but still makes for perfect preserves. This is the recipe for traditional Azerbaijani quince preserves that is usually enjoyed with freshly brewed black tea. A spoonful of quince preserves, a sip of hot tea—that’s how it goes for an Azerbaijani.
Quince Preserves (Heyva Murebbesi)
Makes 2 pints (1 liter)
2 pounds (1 kg) cored and cut quince (see the recipe) (about 4-5 large quinces)
2 pounds (1 kg) granulated sugar
1 cup water
Pinch of citric acid (optional)
If the quince has fuzz, rub the fruit to remove the fuzz from its surface. Quarter and remove the core (do not peel). Using a crinkle cutter (see picture below), cut each quarter crosswise into slices, about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) thick. If you don’t have a crinkle cutter, use a regular knife. Weigh the quince and make sure it is in the 1-to-1 ratio with the sugar.
Put the quince in a wide heavy based saucepan, preferably not very deep. Evenly distribute the sugar over the quince and pour in the water. Simmer over medium heat, uncovered, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until the quince is golden (like in the first picture) and the syrup has somewhat thickened, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If using, toss in the citric acid 5 minutes before removing the preserves from the heat. Allow to cool.
Spoon the cooled preserves into a jar and seal it tightly. Keep in a cool, dry place. To serve, spoon the quince with the syrup into a round preserves bowl.