Posts Tagged ‘quince’

Spanish Membrillo – a quince paste your Manchego cheese is begging for

While visiting Spain earlier this year (working on creating two new Zingerman’s Food Tours), I got to taste a wonderful fruit-paste-and-manchego-cheese appetizer. I learned that the fruit paste was called Membrillo, and is made from fresh quince.

The taste stayed with me, and when I got back to Michigan after leading the fall Tuscany tour I decided to try making Membrillo myself. (The full recipe is at the bottom of the post, following the photos.)

First, you need to get ahold of some ripe quince. Your neighbors may have a quince tree or bush, or speciality produce stores should carry them in the fall. Make sure to get quince that are ripe – they are yellow and smell good – kind of like a ripe apple-pear aroma with a bit of pineapple thrown in. They are very hard even when ripe. I washed them and peeled them. (The recipe I used called for peeling them; I also made quince jelly, a different recipe, and for that one I did not need to peel the fruit.)

Ripe quince

Ripe quince

Peeled - they look and feel like peeled apples

Peeled – they look and feel like very firm peeled apples

Then, you cut the fruit off the core (or use a corer if you have one), and chop it roughly. Put it in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add several strips of carefully-cut lemon zest (you don’t want the white pith), and a vanilla bean pod that has been slit lengthwise, and water to cover. Bring to a boil, and simmer until the quince is soft, about 30-40 minutes.

Chopped quince

Chopped quince

Add water, a vanilla bean, and strips of lemon zest

Add water, a vanilla bean pod, and strips of lemon zest

I really enjoy the aroma of quince – while cooking it made the whole house smell fruity. Once soft, you drain the quince, discard the vanilla bean but keep the zest in with the quince. Then puree it (I used a blender), and measure how much puree you end up with so you know how much sugar to add.

Blending the quince

Blending the quince

Quince puree

Quince puree

Return the quince puree to the heavy-bottomed pot, with the heat on medium-low. Measure out the same amount of sugar as quince puree, and stir it in. When the sugar has completely dissolved, stir in the lemon juice. Continue to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour to an hour and a half. (This reminded me of cooking really good grits – I needed to find tasks to do near the kitchen where I could just pop up and stir the pot every few minutes and then go back to what I was doing.) The color will change from yellow to a deep orange, and it will get quite thick.

Quince puree with the sugar just added

Quince puree with the sugar just added

Quince puree after 1.5 hours

Quince puree after 1.5 hours

While the puree cooks, preheat the oven to 125. Butter some parchment paper well, and line a small baking pan with it. (I used a torte pan but a small square or round baking pan would be fine, 8 x 8 or 9 x 9.) Pour the quince paste in to the parchment-paper-lined pan. I used a spatula to smooth out the paste, so it was even.

Buttered parchment paper in a torte pan

Buttered parchment paper in a torte pan

The quince paste after being poured in to the baking pan

The quince paste after being poured in to the baking pan

Then I put the quince in the oven to dry for about 1.5 hours. I took it out and let it cool, before wrapping it in plastic wrap and keeping it in the fridge. The sugar in it meant that it lasted several weeks, and it was a great excuse to buy several kinds of aged cheeses to eat slices of the membrillo with. We ate the membrillo with an aged Spanish Manchego (which is sheep’s milk cheese), a cheese called Calcagno, which is another aged raw sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia, and it was also really good with Challer-Hocker – a cow’s milk cheese that is softer than those other two – a mountain-style cheese from Switzerland. Yum. Recipe follows, enjoy!

The cooled membrillo, ready to wrap up and put in the fridge.

The cooled membrillo, ready to wrap up and put in the fridge.

The membrillo on a cheese platter - it was definitely a hit.

A wedge of the membrillo on a cheese platter – it was definitely a hit.

Spanish Membrillo
(with thanks to SimplyRecipes dot com for the recipe that I started with!)

INGREDIENTS
approx 4 pounds quince, washed, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
1 vanilla pod, split
4 strips of lemon peel – only the yellow, no pith – about 1/2 inch by 1 inch each.
3 Tbsp lemon juice
About 4 cups of granulated sugar, exact amount depends on how much quince puree you end up with

DIRECTIONS

Place quince pieces in a large saucepan 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 soft (30-40 minutes).

Strain out the water, discard the vanilla pod, but keep the lemon peel with the quince. Purée the quince pieces in a food processor, blender, or 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 and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice.

Continue to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the quince paste is very thick and has a deep orange color.

While the puree cooks, reheat oven to low (125°F, or 52°C). Line a 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. 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 1 to 1.5 hours to help it dry. Remove from oven and let cool.

To serve, cut into squares, slices, or wedges and present with Manchego (or other flavorful) 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 plastic wrap and keeping in the refrigerator.