In Season: The quince has been a popular ingredient since medieval times. The fruit is tart and chalky when raw, but cooking it brings out its sweet flavor and seductive aroma. Quince season begins in late summer and lasts through the fall.
What to Look For: The quince is related to apples and pears, and looks similar to a stubby-necked pear. Ripe quinces are bright-yellow with fuzzy skin. The flesh is creamy white and firm, but turns soft and rosy pink when cooked.
How to Store: Keep quinces in a bowl at room temperature for up to a week, or refrigerate in an airtight bag for as long as two months.
This elaborate dessert soup features tender sweet potato dumplings and vanilla-poached quince. The "broth" of the soup is apple cider intensified by simmering several pounds of apples along with ginger, peppercorns, mace, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise.
The smooth butternut squash custard is like extra-rich pumpkin pie filling. Quince poached in brandy, star anise, and cinnamon makes a luscious garnish.