Ok, I am going to come straight out with it. THIS IS A LABOUR OF LOVE. It’s my first time making membrillo – Spanish quince paste – you know the one often found on a cheese board that tastes delicious with a slice of manchego cheese. They are found in great abundance in the autumn/fall. My lovely neighbour had a huge glut of quinces from her tree so said would I like a bag. Naturally I said ‘yes’ and after showing me all the glorious creations that she was making in her kitchen – membrillo, as well as quince jelly, I was truly inspired. Her passing words to me was that it was a labour of love, which I didn’t quite fully register.
Look I don’t want to put you off, just to simply say there are a few steps and therefore involves effort to seek a reward. The children’s book about the hen who made bread and asked for help from the other farmyard animals, came to mind when I spent a considerable amount of time sieving the quince through a sieve.
So a few things of importance to note. Quince are not like apples or pears, other than in appearance. Their bitter flesh means they are almost exclusively for cooking instead of eaten raw. To core them is super hard, even with a sharp knife and after grazing my finger I thought that the best way to deal with them was to simply peel them and quarter or half them and then put them in water to boil – along with the lemon rind and vanilla pod. After 45 minutes I turned off the heat and in fact left them overnight to rest until morning. If you do this earlier in the day then you can simply removed the vanilla pod and then blend them, pips and all. What comes out of the sieve – with a bit of hard work with the back of a spoon – is a very smooth paste, that resembles baby puree. At this stage the colour is a mellow yellow.
Then you need to weigh the amount of pureed quince and then whatever the amount is, you place the same amount of granulated sugar in a large pan. Keeping on a low heat you stir at intervals for an 1h 15 mins. The quince changes from yellow to more of a red hue. Then the final stage is to put it into an ovenproof dish, which you line with parchment paper, greased with a very little coating of butter. Pour the contents of the pan into the dish and place into a low oven 125 degrees F for a further hour, by this time it will be a deep blood red colour. Leave to cool completely before removing the greaseproof paper and the now hard membrillo from the dish. Cut it up into the sizes you wish to portion up. I cut mine into 9 large cubes, which I wrapped in foil and placed in the fridge. According to my neighbour, they can last for a year in the fridge. If any mould appears in time, it’s simply a case of removing the top layer and continuing to eat. Waste not want not springs to mind. I will give these out as some of my edible Christmas gifts, maybe accompanied with some Manchego cheese.
Membrillo – Spanish Quince Paste
best eaten with a hard cheese such as Manchego, or game or pate.
1 bag of quince (mine weighed in at this stage to 2.5kg)
1 vanilla pod, sliced in two
juice of one lemon
2 strips of lemon peel (yellow part only)
granulated sugar (the same amount exactly as your pureed quince – mine came to 1.254kg)
- Peel the quince and cut them in half or quarters if you can. Place in a large pan and cover with water and add the vanilla pod and lemon peel. Boil away gently for 45 minutes, or until they are soft.
- Strain the water, remove the vanilla pod and discard, but keep the lemon peel with the quince and then blitz in batches in your blender.
- Take the blended quince and put into a sieve and using the back of a spoon sieve through the contents. The pips and cores will remain, but what comes through the sieve is a really smooth paste, similar to baby puree. This part takes effort to do persist and don’t give up.
- Once it has all being sieved (congratulations the hard bit is over), weigh it out and then place in a large sauce pan. Place the same amount of granulated sugar as quince puree into the pan along with the juice of a whole lemon. Simmer, stirring at intervals, for the next 1h 15 mins, by which time the quince puree will have gone a reddish colour – but not the colour of the final membrillo, that only comes when it goes in the oven.
- Using an ovenproof dish – I used a large square baking dish 25cmx25cm – line it with greaseproof parchment paper and coat with a little butter. Place the quince paste into the dish and then place in a low oven at 125 degrees F for a further 1 hour.
- Remove from the oven to cool completely before removing from the tin and sectioning up into large squares or rectangles. Cover individually with foil and place in the fridge.
- Perfect as gifts and eaten with some delicious hard cheese such as Manchego.
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