Doesn’t the Spanish name sound so much nicer than the German “Quitte” or English “quince”? If I think hard enough I could come up with the one or other jam recipe I’ve come across in the past that featured quinces and I’ve also seen it as a accompaniment to venison (essentially as a cranberry/Preiselbeeren replacement). But have I ever worked with quinces myself? Nope, I never felt intrigued enough. And if it wasn’t for the box that had Membrillo in large letters written across it, I wouldn’t have stopped at the fruit stand to buy a couple to begin with. Now what?
I was looking for a classic recipe. An original, something compelling and simple at the same time and did find it: Membrillo, a Spanish delicacy, traditionally eaten with cheese such as Manchego. Other cheese accompaniment such as Fragolaceto have innately a tart taste to them, the recipes I found for Membrillo promised a milder product and that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing…unless…
When I served Oliver a few samples of Manchego and Membrillo, his first reaction was: “mm pretty good, but it could use a bit more acidity…”. Ugh! That was the whole point! For sanity sakes, I cross checked with other online sources and almost none of which mentioned any additional ingredient adding acidity outside of the quinces’ own. I also shared a few pieces with our friends Harry and Kristin (who recently reopened cafe solo, which used to be cup o’ coffee in the days) who, using these exact same words, commented it with “…think it could use some more acidity…” OK – that’s it guys, no more sharing!
I made a mental note for the next time, a shot of lime juice or alternatively a splash of apple balsamic might in fact be a good idea (public pressure became too much to bear) other than that I was super happy with the results – and truth spoken, Oliver liked it, too: the mmh-sounds gave it away…and for some reason, that piece in the fridge keeps getting smaller and smaller!
What fascinates me the most is the texture. A product of only two single ingredients (if you don’t count the added water), creating such a yummy, firm and so-they-say infinitely preserved paste. I keep mine in the fridge, wrapped in foil, and it tastes and looks perfect. Another aha effect is the change in color: When you start boiling the fruit pieces everything is light yellow-orange, but after an hour it’ll turn into a lively deep red-orange color. Magic or “witchcraft”, as Sebastian cheekily commented not so long ago?
Wash, peel, core quinces, then chop coarsely and place in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the quinces and boil covered for about 30 minutes or until fruit is very soft. Remove excess water and weight.
Process the fruit until very smooth either with a regular or a handheld blender. Add an equal amount (see step 1) of sugar and combine with fruit pulp in the same pot.
Cook, stirring over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the quince paste thickens and has a deep orange color. This will take round about 60-90 minutes.
Transfer cooked paste to a parchment paper lined and lightly greased pan (mine was about 20x20cm/8×8″) and spread paste flat. Place in oven at low heat (50°C/120°F) with the fan on for an hour or so to aid the drying process.
To serve (with cheese): Cut into small wedges or squares. To store: Wrap in foil and keep in fridge.
Note: Some recipes suggest the use of a muslin to also cook the peel and core, which I believe is not necessary and simply adds more work. You decide.
Membrillo (quince paste)
Recipe source: combination of various sources
Prep time: 20min., cooking/drying: ~2,5 hours
Ingredients (serves many...):
4 quinces, peeled, cored and coarsely cubed
equal amount of white sugar (determined in step 1)
to serve: crackers and cheeses (e.g. Manchego)