Score! My good friend recently treated me to some quince from one of Vancouver's farmer's markets. This fruit is often overlooked because it can't be eaten raw. But it is very rich in pectin which makes it perfect for jams and jellies or in Dulce de Membrillo, one of my favourite treats. Ok I'll be honest here, the reason it's one of my favourites is that it gives me an excuse to eat cheese! Membrillo is the Spanish word for quince but the word is also used to refer to quince paste, the sweet, floral, gel-like confection, which pairs so nicely with Manchego cheese and which kids in Spain spread on their toast.
The fruit themselves are a bit strange looking, sort of a cross between an apple and a pear, and covered with an unusual fuzz which would seem to be unique to quince. It seems that removal of this fuzz, results in the quince turning brown, so keep it on.
When I'm making membrillo for immediate use, I usually buy 1 -3 pieces of the fruit and make a small batch which I can let set in a shallow cake pan. This makes it easy to slice up and use for pairing with cheese. On this occasion, as I had a number of fruit to work with, the yield was more than I could hope to eat in a few sittings so this gave me the opportunity to make use of some Weck canning jars which I've been eager to try, and make a larger batch which I could put by for future use.
The Weck jars feature a glass lid which fits over a rubber ring. During the canning process, a pair of stainless steel clips are fitted to the lid to keep it in place. Once the vacuum seal has been enabled, through the use of a boiling water bath, the clips are removed and the vacuum seal keeps the lid in place. Simple technology. Love it!
Dulce de Membrillo (Quince Paste)
1 kg quince, cored, peeled and diced
600 g sugar
Place the quince in a pot and cover with sugar and allow to macerate overnight or for 8-10 hours. This will draw the pectin and liquid out of the fruit.
Cook the macerated fruit on a low heat stirring from time to time, and more frequently as it gets thicker. (About 1 - 1.5 hours) Once the fruit is very thick and mostly broken down, you may, if you like, use a hand mixer to purée the quince. Be very careful with the heat and make sure you keep stirring the paste as it can burn easily at this stage. Pour into molds or a shallow cake pan lined with parchment or clear plastic and let cool. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Serve in slices or small cubes with equally sized pieces of cheese. Spanish Manchego is traditional but membrillo also tastes great with a strong, sharp cheddar.
If you want to modify the quantity, you can do so easily - just make sure you keep the same ratio of sugar to fruit.
This recipe comes to me from a friend in Galicia, Spain. (Patience not being one of my virtues, the addition of the hand-mixer is mine!)