They looking kind of frighteningly boobish, don’t they? The Quince. I first got to know her, as everyone seems to do, in the form of a paste called Membrillo. I had it at Street and Co. when I first moved here. It was paired, as it traditionally is, with Manchego (which was also a first introduction), the most famous of all Spanish Cheeses. I believe there may have been some balsamic reduction there and some cracked pepper. Nearly six years later and I still remember the plate, that’s how much those new flavors stuck to me. Now, I’ve eaten a few hundred different cheeses since then, or so says my “Cheese Journal” that I keep, but I haven’t forgotten the first time I had that classic pairing.
Recently seeing some Quince at Whole Foods made me feel a smidge sentimental and I felt inspired to make my own Membrillo. For the price of four quince ($1.99/ea), I produced about as much as three retail containers that cost around $6.99/ea. Not too bad and I’ve been packing some up to give as gifts this year.
- 4 pounds quince, washed, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
- 1 vanilla pod, split
- 2 strips (1/2 inch by 2 inches each) of lemon peel (only the yellow peel, no white pith)
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice
- About 4 cups of granulated sugar, exact amount will be determined during cooking
1 Place quince pieces in a large saucepan (6-8 quarts) and cover with water. Add the vanilla pod and lemon peel and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook until the quince pieces are fork tender (30-40 minutes).
2 Strain the water from the quince pieces. Discard the vanilla pod but keep the lemon peel with the quince. Purée the quince pieces in a food processor, blender, or by using a food mill.
Measure the quince purée. Whatever amount of quince purée you have, that’s how much sugar you will need. So if you have 4 cups of purée, you’ll need 4 cups of sugar. Return the quince purée to the large pan. Heat to medium-low. Add the sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice.
3 Continue to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1-1 1/2 hours, until the quince paste is very thick and has a deep orange pink color.
4 Preheat oven to a low 125°F (52°C). Line a 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper (do not use wax paper, it will melt!). Grease the parchment paper with a thin coating of butter. Pour the cooked quince paste into the parchment paper-lined baking pan. Smooth out the top of the paste so it is even. Place in the oven for about an hour to help it dry. Remove from oven and let cool.
To serve, cut into squares or wedges and present with Manchego cheese. To eat, take a small slice of the membrillo and spread it on top of a slice of the cheese. Store by wrapping in foil or plastic wrap, an keeping in the refrigerator.
**I could have definitely stood to reduce the pureed paste down a bit more as the color was more of a blush than the usual deep orange. I also noticed that the flavor was more citrusy, rather than the apple/pear flavor I associate with Membrillo. This could have been because it wasn’t cooked down enough. I will say that it was definitely great with some aged cheddar I had on hand and something I will easily make again.