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Recipe: Make your own quince paste

PUBLISHED: 15:00 15 September 2013

Fruit pastes are wonderful with cheese

Fruit pastes are wonderful with cheese

Archant

Emma Crowhurst makes the most of autumn’s bounty

Ingredients

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

At this time of year the hedgerows are bursting with blackberries, apples are falling from trees, and even my grapes are ripening on an outdoor vine. Figs in my garden are enough to fill a bowl and one of my favourite fruits, the quince will soon be ready to harvest.

Quince jelly or jam is delicious, I often make a version of tart tatin with the flesh.

My preferred way to enjoy it, is to make Membrillo or quince paste, it is a bit like fruit cheese, but a little firmer and has more uses. Membrillo or quince paste is practically the national snack of Spain when paired with sheep’s Manchego milk cheese.

If you have never tried membrillo with Manchego, you are in for a treat.

Not familiar with quince ? It’s a hard fruit that looks sort of like a cross between an apple and a pear. Like the guava, it also has a slightly bitty consistency. Guava cheese or paste is similar to membrillo .

Most varieties you can’t eat raw, only cooked. They cook up pink and have a wonderful sweet floral aroma. Like apples and pears, they’re in season during the autumn.

The difference between a jam and a paste is in the cooking, longer slower cooking yields a more concentrated thick paste or consistency in the finished product.

Method

Place the 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 fork tender (30-40 minutes).

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 2lbs/900g of purée, you’ll need 2lbs/900g of sugar.

Return the quince purée to the rinsed out large pan. Heat to medium-low. Add the sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice.

Simmer slowly for up to 3 hours, stirring every few minutes until the paste changes to a dark rose colour. I usually wait until I can see the bottom of the pan in the trail of the spoon, so it is very thick.

Tip out into oiled flat trays so that you get a slab about 2cm thick, I use baking trays about 30cm X 20cm X 2cm. Let this cool overnight. It should now be quite solid but still sticky.

Turn each slab out onto a sheet of muslin and wrap the muslin over the slab of paste to enclose it. Lift the muslin wrapped slab onto a wire rack and put in a cool dark place. After a month or so the surface will have dried out and the paste is ready to eat.

Variations: Use red or white wine in place of all or some of the water in stage

Add a cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, orange or lemon peel in to stage

Before wrapping in muslin in stage 7, scatter a few bay leaves (either fresh or dried) across the top of the slab. To get a darker result, let the puree in stage 5 catch very slightly so that you are scraping a darker coloured toffee off the bottom of the pan.

To serve, cut into squares or wedges and present with Manchego cheese. To eat, take a small slice of the membrillo and eat with a slice of the cheese.

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