• Publishers' Note Winter 2014

    Publishers' Note Winter 2014

    Coming in from a cold, bleak winter day into the warmth and bustle of a winter farmers’ market brings a certain elation and reminds us of the spirit of community and the life force still in all things at this darkest time of year. 

    Continue Reading

  • Set the Table with Quince

    Set the Table with Quince

    The first time I met a quince, I was immediately smitten. There were plenty of beautiful apples around, but that box of quince enticed me with its sweet, exotic aroma. Could I possibly describe the complex fragrance? Why hadn’t I seen or tasted one before?

    Continue Reading

  • Peak Phosphorous: Crisis in the Making or Radical Opportunity?

    Peak Phosphorous: Crisis in the Making or Radical Opportunity?

    For many years environmental activists have used the term “peak oil” to refer to the coming crisis in availability of fossil fuels, and as part of a rhetorical strategy to hasten our shift toward a post-oil economy. Recently, some activists and scientists have begun to talk about another “peak” crisis: that of phosphorous.

    Continue Reading

  • How to Link to Land

    How to Link to Land

    “The key was that we didn’t know what we didn’t know.”

    In describing their farm journey, Jaska Bradeen, 29, and Katie Sullivan, 30, of Sheep and Pickle Farm in Brookfield, return again and again to this problem, one that they and many other beginning farmers like them have faced when first looking for land.

    Continue Reading

  • “It tastes like…”

    “It tastes like…”

    A food’s flavor can be hard to describe. We have a whole vocabulary for talking about how food is produced with terms like organic, heirloom, grass fed, pasture raised, line caught, cage free, community supported, miles traveled. 

    Continue Reading

  • Winter Bounty

    Winter Bounty

    It is almost winter in Vermont. The familiar crunch accompanies the early riser’s first steps onto the frosted tips of grass. Where the garden once teemed with large leaves of Swiss chard and the sweetest of cherry tomatoes, there remain only a few flattened beet leaves and carrot tops left behind from the fall harvest.

    Continue Reading

  • Know Your Local-i-tea

    Know Your Local-i-tea

    What’s the secret to staying warm and healthy although a long, cold Vermont winter? Many gardeners and herbalists would agree that teas made from our wild and garden herbs are the soothing secret to health and happiness, especially in winter.

    Continue Reading

  • Delivering the Goods in Windham County

    Delivering the Goods in Windham County

    Back in 2008, teacher Hans Estrin’s ecology students at The Putney School heard that rallying cry and launched a well-intentioned project: Take the surplus from the 3-acre garden at the private and progressive Putney School and donate it for lunches at the public Putney Central Elementary School, just down the hill. “It was a great idea!” says Hans. 

    Continue Reading

  • Farmers' Kitchen—Vermont Vinegar

    Farmers' Kitchen—Vermont Vinegar

    Shelburne Orchards is located along the shores of Lake Champlain. The orchard has been in Nick Cowles’s family since the 1950s and he took it over in the 1970s.

    Continue Reading

  • Last Morsel—From Farm to Spa

    Last Morsel—From Farm to Spa

    As Cynthea Wight Hausman was growing up—first on a commune in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and later on her family’s New Hampshire homestead—fresh and organic foods were plentiful. In her teens, Cynthea made her own remedies and lotions from herbs and flowers gathered from the woods and gardens surrounding her home.

    Continue Reading


Set the Table with Quince


Written By

Lindsay Arbuckle

Written on

November 24 , 2013

The first time I met a quince, I was immediately smitten. There were plenty of beautiful apples around, but that box of quince enticed me with its sweet, exotic aroma. Could I possibly describe the complex fragrance? Why hadn’t I seen or tasted one before?

Quinces are yellow and shaped like a plump pear. They are covered in protective fuzz, almost as a peach is, but the soft fuzz is easily wiped away to reveal a bright yellow skin. The flavor of cooked quince is very unique, with hints of apple, raspberry, pear, and guava. Quince grown in our climate never ripens enough to lose its tartness, so it is more often cooked or preserved than eaten raw—and when cooked it turns a lovely pink color. The resulting red pigments are powerful antioxidants, and coincidentally, the same pigments are to be thanked for Vermont’s colorful autumn foliage.

My first quince came from Scott Farm in Dummerston, where they grow 90 different varieties of apples and many other fruits. When I returned home, I was determined to make quince paste.

Quince paste is a common preparation of the fruit in Spain, where the paste is called membrilloand is often served with cheese. Imagine a dehydrated jam, thickened enough to be cut into slices. In my version I used only quince and honey, and the paste was delicious paired with Vermont farmstead cheeses.

That day, I envisioned making Vermont quince paste for the masses, prepared with local quinces, offering the perfect complement to our amazing local cheese. Nan Stefanik of Newfane had a similar idea, but also had the skills and knowledge to transform her dreams into reality. She launched Vermont Quince in 2012 and now crafts homemade quince products with local quince and organic ingredients.


Nan was traveling in Nerja, Spain when she first encountered quince paste. She loved it, but didn’t think about making it until she entered a friend’s cellar one fateful fall afternoon. Seeing a basket of fuzzy yellow fruit, she inquired and was told that it was quince, grown in Putney.

A veteran tomato and applesauce canner, Nan quickly started experimenting with quince in the kitchen. For the next three years, she procured the fruit from the three Putney trees and made a variety of quince products that she trialed as gifts for friends and family. Their positive feedback helped Stefanik revise recipes, and she ultimately began researching local orchards for raw fruit and all that is involved with starting a specialty food business in Vermont.

When Nan officially launched Vermont Quince Company, she made use of the kitchen facilities and resources at the Vermont Food Venture Center. Now she sells quince paste, quince jelly, and quince mustard, as well as quince “splash,” a sweet juice that is delicious in a sparkling drink or vinaigrette. Nan continues to experiment and had made a fresh batch of quince-crabapple-ginger preserves the day I visited her. She is also jumping onto the fermentation train with trials of quince vinegar.

The quince jelly, by the way, requires no additional pectin, as there is so much naturally occurring in the quince. This was the main reason for quince’s popularity in the past. A little quince went a long way for American colonists making preserves; back then, almost every garden claimed a quince tree. But as long ago as the 1920s, quince had been all but forgotten. In 1922, New York pomologist U.P. Hedrick wrote that “the quince, the ‘golden apple’ of the ancients, once dedicated to deities, and looked upon as the emblem of love and happiness, for centuries the favorite pome, is now neglected and the least esteemed of commonly cultivated tree-fruits.”

After quickly surveying friends, young and old, I concluded that not much is known about the quince in Vermont today. However, articles about quince have appeared inThe New York Times and L.A. Times in the last several years. Perhaps quince will become the next kale and everyone will want to try this fine fruit.


That is certainly Nan’s goal and social mission: to promote quince and to help more people learn about it. She has chosen to sell her products at farmers’ markets and small local stores, where she can offer tastings and have conversations about quince. She is growing seven quince trees of different cultivars, with hopes to plant 20 more in the spring.

In 2013, Vermont Quince made an agreement with Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole, NH to buy all of the wholesale fruit from their 75 trees. They are planting 50 more trees to keep up with Nan’s projected demand. Last year, Vermont Quince used 1,500 pounds and had to carefully manage inventory to be able to supply quince products to wholesale customers throughout the year. To satisfy an unexpectedly large demand for her quince mustard, Nan bought Chilean quince, and is very transparent about doing so, posting sourcing information on Vermont Quince’s Facebook page. Her goal is to use as much regional fruit as possible. She even drove around Vermont in 2012 posting “Got Quince?” flyers, hoping to find as many backyard trees as possible.

A backyard growers program is in the works, including a reward for referrals. Nan got the idea after learning about a tree in Guilford that is 65 years old and yielded 100 pounds of quince in 2012. Now she knows of roughly 10 quince trees scattered around the area, but the owners of the trees don’t sell all their fruit to Vermont Quince. The bounty from one nearby tree, for example, is split amongst neighbors and used to make preserves, a longstanding tradition. The harvest of another local tree is transformed into prized hard cider for a group of old-timers.

If you’re interested in trying the fruit, a handful of local orchards grow quince, including Scott Farm and Alyson’s Orchard. Harlow Farm in Westminster recently planted their first trees, while Windfall Orchard in Cornwall is harvesting from two trees and is considering a quince hard cider. Ask for the ripe fruit in October.

For green thumbs, Elmore Roots Nursery in Elmore sells quince trees. David Fried of Elmore Roots said, “It used to be we could not grow them up here, but someone in Russia developed one called Aromatnaya that is fragrant and hardy and you can even eat a little of it fresh.” Elmore Roots’ quince has been growing and fruiting for approximately seven of the nursery’s 33 years of operation.

Whether you’re a gardener or not, quince is a fruit not to be missed. Until next October’s quince harvest, the fruit can be enjoyed any number of ways from Vermont Quince. Stash away this recipe below, and ask your friends and neighbors if they know about quince. If you find a story, it’s sure to be a good one. If you find the fruit, even better.

Vermont Quince products are sold at farmers’ markets in Putney, Brattleboro, Newfane, Londonderry, Townshend, and Walpole, NH. They’re also sold by local retailers and at specialty food and wine shows in Vermont. For a detailed list,
visit vermontquince.com.


About the Author

Lindsay Arbuckle

Lindsay Arbuckle

Lindsay Arbuckle and her husband Scott Courcelle own Alchemy Gardens, a small mixed vegetable farm near Rutland. 


Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest. Optional login below.

What we do

A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.


Sign up for quarterly notifications and issue highlights.
Please wait