Certain varieties of quince look like their close relation, the pear, but don't be fooled: if you try to bite into one, you are likely to break your teeth. Even when ripe, the quince is extremely hard - one of the reasons it's not more popular is that it's so difficult to peel and cut. When the fruit is unripe, it has a soft, fuzzy down over the skin. A ripe quince is noticeable for its pleasing fragrance. The fruit can be ripened at room temperature but if you do so, turn it frequently, so it doesn't rot at the point where it comes into contact with the tabletop. When raw, the flavour is unpleasantly astringent, so the fruit is almost always cooked. Quince is high in pectin so is frequently made into preserves. Peel the fruit and remove the seeds and core. Grate the flesh (a food processor comes in handy), weigh it then add three-quarters the weight of granulated sugar and enough water to barely cover the fruit. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the fruit is tender and translucent: the preserve will take on a lovely pink hue that will deepen the longer it's cooked. If you want to make jelly, strain the mixture through a double layer of cheesecloth set over a pan to catch the liquid - don't squeeze the cheesecloth or the jelly will be cloudy. Cook the liquid until it sets, stir in some fresh lemon juice then pour into jars. For jam, it isn't necessary to strain the mixture - just cook it until it sets before adding the lemon juice. For quince paste, cook the mixture until it's very thick, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. It's ready when you scrape the spoon across the bottom of the pan and it leaves a track through the mixture. Pack the thick paste into lightly oiled ramekins, allow to set, then slice and serve with cheese. Sauteed quince is a delicious alternative to sauteed apple or pear and is often served with rich meats such as duck, lamb and foie gras. Peel the fruit and cut it into wedges. Heat butter in a skillet, add the fruit and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Turn the fruit so the sugar-side is down and cook until lightly caramelised. Sprinkle the pieces with sugar, turn them over and cook until the other side is caramelised. Add a little salt and whole spices, such as cloves, black pepper- corns and a small piece of cinnamon bark. Stir in a splash of cider vinegar then cover the pan, lower the heat and cook, stirring often, until the quince pieces are tender but not mushy.