Quince Paste for Rosh HaShana


Quinces are from the same family as apples and pears. They are much uglier than both, and they taste horrible when eaten raw (I tried!). Feed them to the geese? Think again: as usual, our great-great-great grandmothers were able to turn even this ugly-duckling of a fruit into a delicious treat. So delicious, in fact, that many communities in Italy and elsewhere eat them instead of apples and honey as Tapuach, the first element in our Rosh HaShana seder symbolizing a sweet new year.
(Other Italian traditions begin with dates – in Aramaic,Temareh – for the first blessing, and conclude with figs, apples or quinces).
I hope you try this easy recipe and offer it next to your apples and honey. You will understand why, when quinces were still hard to come by in Manhattan stores, a friend of mine’s 80-year-old Italian grandmother (who shall go unnamed) would be found climbing up the trees in the garden of the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan before Rosh HaShana. We saw her in action and she was quite agile.

– 2 pounds quinces
– 1 and 1/2 pound sugar
– 1 organic lemon
– 4 or 5 cloves

Clean the quinces, eliminating all the fuzz and any parts that are damaged..
Cook them in a pot of boiling water with half an organic lemon and the cloves.
When they are as soft as boiled potatoes (about an hour) drain them, discarding the lemon and cloves and setting aside about a ladleful of the cooking water.
Halve the quinces and allow them to cool off; then peel them, eliminate the cores, and reduce them into a smooth puree using a food mill or an electric mixer.
Combine this puree with the sugar and 1/2  a ladleful of the cooking water. Cook on low heat for about an hour, stirring regularly. The paste is ready when it sticks to the spoon.
Wet a large cutting board or your countertop, and pour the cotognata on top, forming an even 1/2-inch
layer.. After it has started to dry, you can cover it with parchment paper. After at least 24 hours (48 is better), cut into shapes with cookie cutters.

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  1. Recently at a coffee shop in Tel Aviv I was served a jam much recalling the quince taste of my youth – I asked the owners how they made it and after a long search a several phone calls turns out it was green apples. I assume they used more sugar, and by the taste I guessed can sugar, not white. So when in Israel, try the green apple version, it may surprise you! Shana Tova!

  2. This looks great! How long can does it keep? Does it need refrigeration? Sorry for my extreme ignorance but I’m always looking for new & different recipes I can make in advance and/or bring to a dinner hosted by extended family or friends.

  3. I love that these look they contain so much and it is really not much more than a fruit and sugar, so cool.

  4. these look so delicious, and they make a wonderful host gift

  5. These are such a festive treat. I wonder if I can find quince this week so I can add them to my menu for Rosh Hashana.

  6. I have never used quinces, but would love this to be my first recipe to try with them!

  7. Ale – can always count on you for something out of the ordinary and beautiful — Shana Tova!

  8. Stunning and creative! It’s simple and elegant all at once- something I have come to love and admie about your recipes!

  9. I love quince paste, especially with cheese and toasted almonds. These look so lovely. I haven’t cooked quinces in years; this is an inspiration.

  10. Elizabeth Davis says:

    I also discovered quince at the Cloisters and made the mistake of biting into one. Astringent!
    I make a large tray of membrillo (Claudia Roden’s recipe) each autumn. I also make tea (from the pips — good for soothing sore throats), several types of Greek spoon fruits (great with Greek yoghurt for breakfast), poached in rosewater, stuffed with lamb, ratafia (quince liqueur), fruit leather, cakes, pies, preserves and marmalade (quince was the original ingredient in marmalade and the word marmelo is Portuguese for quince) each fall. A friend gives me a generous 10 lb bag and then it’s quince fest here! However in my part of the world they don’t ripen until after Sukkot. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the jams, pastes, spoon fruits etc freeze very well so you can enjoy quince all year long. There’s even a wonderful quince recipe book: Simply Quince by Barbara Ghazarian.

  11. Different places, same traditions… Love how you made them into different shapes, it makes for a beautiful presentation.

  12. we eat dates as part of our rosh hashana meal, but never quinces. read this post too late, but maybe we’ll try this for our new fruit next year!


  1. […] if you are not much of a baker, there are quicker ways to break the fast Italian-style: try quince paste with any simple cookies, or – if you can tolerate alcohol – the Piedmontese […]

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