Quince is the most luscious fall fruit, but not as widely known or easily found as it should be. It holds its secrets tightly inside; quince is very astringent and not pleasant to eat when raw, but when cooked with sugar it turns coral-pink and delicious. It's also very high in pectin, which means that it is practically perfect for sorbet. This fragrant sorbet, spiced with star anise and vanilla, is thick and smooth — more like a sherbet than an icy sorbet — and it makes a wonderful accompaniment to autumn gingerbread and apple cake.
This is a good make-ahead dessert recipe; I would suggest serving it with our Dark Molasses Gingerbread Cake, which can also be made well ahead of time and even frozen.
Quince can be hard to find, but look at organic groceries like Whole Foods. They are large and knobbly, like oversized apples, often with a gray-green fuzz on their skin. Inside they're tough and a little spongy when raw, but they cook up into this gorgeous color — look how beautiful that is!
Place the quince in a large pot and add the sugar, honey, and 2 cups water. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use the tip of a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Add them and the vanilla pod to the pot, along with the star anise and salt, and stir.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Lower the heat and cover with a parchment circle (see general directions here for cooking quince) or loosely with a lid. Simmer for 45 minutes or until soft and pink.
Refrigerate the quince in its syrup overnight or for a few hours.
Remove a few slices of cooked quince for serving with the sorbet, and strain out about 1/4 cup of syrup for drizzling over top. Reserve these and refrigerate.
Blend the rest of the quince and its syrup in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to an ice cream maker and process for 20 minutes or until it's frozen. Spread in a freezer container and cover the surface of the sorbet fully with wax paper or plastic wrap. Put on a lid and freeze for up to 1 month.
Serve with slices of quince and a drizzle of the syrup.