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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today's Found Recipe involves quinces. Quinces? Yes, that sounds like something the Queen of Hearts would eat.

TAMMY DONROE INMAN: Quinces are a fruit that are related to the pear. They can't be eaten raw. They're actually very fragrant. One of my friends says it reminds her of Green Apple Jolly Ranchers.

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CORNISH: And these seasonal yellow fruits smell so good that people often use them as air fresheners. Pop them in a bowl and, voila, the scent of Green Apple Jolly Rancher candy throughout your entire house.

INMAN: But when you cook them, the flavor is different. It's more like a cross between an apple and a pear, with a little hint of that exotic flower fragrance.

CORNISH: That's Tammy Donroe Inman, author of the dessert cookbook "Wintersweet." She first tried quinces in Spain as a sweet, spreadable paste. Back in Boston, years later, she came across quince paste again. This time, she became a little obsessed.

INMAN: When I was at a friend's house, she was going on a sabbatical for six months and she was emptying out her refrigerator of all her perishable items. And one of the things that she gave me - besides the turkey carcass - was a half eaten jar of quince paste. And it was nothing like what I'd had in Spain. It was tart and sweet at the same time and so deeply flavored. I loved it. And I realized, as I was finishing the jar, that I had no way to get any more of it.

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INMAN: I looked closely at the jar and there was a paper label. It didn't have a name but it had a physical street address listed. So I thought about driving over there but maybe that would be weird to just show up on somebody's doorstep. Instead, I wrote a nice handwritten card: Dear Quince Lady, my friend gave me a jar of your quince paste and it was the best thing I've ever had. I would love to learn how to make this. What can you tell me about this recipe?

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INMAN: A few days later, I got a long email from a Latvian man was saying that he was the one who had made the quince paste and that he would be happy to share his recipe with me. As soon as I could, I went off to the market, got myself some pineapple quince and set to work making this amazing quince paste and it was not the same.

It was very good. It tasted from quinces like a really exotic version of apple sauce but it wasn't tart. So I reduced the sugar and I made it again. And it was a little more tart but it still, it was not the same and I made it again. Meanwhile, my two sons were lapping up this quince sauce like it was the best thing they had ever had.

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INMAN: Fast forward a year later, my friend worked with the Quince Lady, the Latvian man. He had extra quince left over from his quince bushes that he grew on his property. So I wrote her back, I'm like, you have to get the quince from him, please. And it turns out, indeed, he does grow a special variety of quince bush, a Japanese ornamental variety that was different from what you can get at the markets.

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INMAN: I know that not everyone will have access to that special ornamental Japanese variety of quince. But I don't want people to pass on this really interesting fruit. So the quince sauce recipe that I developed while trying to make the quince paste is what I'd like to share with you today.

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INMAN: This is the sauce that my kids absolutely loved and it will work with any type of quince.

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INMAN: Your raw quinces will hard as rock. Throw them into a pot and cover them with water. Bring it to boil and cook them for about 30 to 40 minutes. You throw them into the food processor or a blender with a little water. And you whiz them until they're a sauce-like consistency.

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INMAN: Add your sugar, some lemon juice, cardamom, nutmeg and ginger. Cook them, simmering for about an hour and a half and then you're ready to go.

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INMAN: The quince sauce is like a really rich, fragrant applesauce. I like to eat it just spooned out of a jar or in a bowl but it's also really good over cold vanilla ice cream.

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CORNISH: You can get Tammy Donroe Inman's full recipe for quince sauce on our Found Recipes page at NPR.org. As for the quinces, they are elusive. You can mail order them or find them at a specialty grocery store this time of year. And once you've found them they'll keep in the refrigerator for months. Happy hunting.

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