This rock hard fruit that looks like the love child of an apple and a pear is called a quince. While apples and pears are great to eat straight out of hand, no prep necessary, the quince isn’t quite the fresh eating fruit. To really enjoy quince, you need to cook it a little bit. From poaching, braising or boiling until soft then baking, this odd looking fruit releases its sweet and floral flavors (and rosy pink color). Cook it a little bit more, with the addition of some aromatics and sugar and you’ve got yourself quince paste (aka membrillo) that is a perfect addition to your holiday cheese plate.
I don’t remember the first time I had quince paste. I do know that I ate about 3 pounds of the stuff when I was in Madrid a couple of years ago. Oh, the multiple pounds consumed were paired with probably 6 pounds of Manchego cheese (a Spanish cheese). A 2 to 1 ratio of cheese plus anything else is the proper ratio in my book.
In Spain, quince paste is known as Membrillo or dulce de Membrillo. You can also find this deep rose colored paste here in the states at cheese shops and some higher end grocery stores. Of course, you’ll also pay quite a bit for your find. Fortunately, it’s easy to make this sweet treat.
I won’t sugar coat it (there’s plenty of sugar coursing through our veins right now), while this is a ridiculously easy recipe to make…it does take some time and attention. But given how cold it’s getting in parts of the country right now, you might be looking for any way to get yourself a little warmer right about now. Yeah, drinking a hot toddy is a much easier way to warm up, but this quince paste will last a lot longer.
Every time I make quince paste, I do it a little bit differently. Changing up some of the subtle flavors of membrillo makes it a little different every year. After making this a few years ago, I have requests to bring it to every holiday gathering we have with our friends. It’s nice not having to think about what to bring to a party. I just grab a big piece of quince paste from my fridge, pick up a chunk of Manchego cheese from the store and a box of crackers – Done!
Oh, I almost forgot to mention…Once you make up the quince paste, you just wrap it up and store it in a zip top plastic bag that you keep in your refrigerator. It lasts for a year, so your effort is well worth it.
So make your life a bit easier, and your cheese plate a little fancier this holiday season and make up a batch of this quince paste. I’m sure you’ll be hooked and it will become an addition to your annual cooking.
Spending three weeks with a combination of in-laws and parents teaches you a lot of things.
Recipe: Quince Paste (Membrillo)
- 1 Pound Quince (2)
- 3 Strips Orange Peel (no pith)
- 2 Strips Lemon Peel (no pith)
- 18 Black Peppercorns
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 Pound Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
- Peel, core and roughly chop quince (I cut the quince into quarters then into pieces that are roughly 1 inch each).
- Place quince pieces in a large saucepan and cover (by 1 inch) with water. Add the peels, peppercorns and cinnamon stick to the pot.
- Bring everything up to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until quince is fork tender (about 30 – 40 minutes). You may notice the quince begin to turn a rosy pink color…that’s totally fine.
- Drain the water from the quince pieces and toss out the cinnamon stick (I also toss most, but not all, of the peppercorns too – you can toss them all or do the same..you’ll have some black flecks in the finished quince pastes if you leave some in). Leave the peels in with the quince pieces.
- Purée the quince pieces in a food processor or blender.
- Measure the purée. If you have 2 cups of purée, you’ll need 2 cups of sugar. (It’s equal parts purée to sugar, whatever your measurements are.)
- Add the quince purée back to the pan you boiled it in. Heat over medium-low heat and add the sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add in the lemon juice.
- Continue cooking over the low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1-1 1/2 hours, until the quince paste is really thick and has turned a deep orangey pink color. You need to do the stirring, because as it thickens, it can burn.
- Preheat oven to a low 125 – 150 degrees Farenheit.
- Line an 8″x8″ baking pan with parchment paper (don’t use wax paper or foil…it just doesn’t work well…like at all). If you make the quince into a really thick layer, you may need to bake it longer to firm it up.
- Lightly grease the parchment paper with butter.
- Spoon the cooked quince paste into the parchment paper-lined baking pan, smooth the top of the paste and make sure it is an even thickness in the pan.
- Place in the oven for an hour to dry it a bit more (the color will deepen even further).
- Remove from oven and let cool.
- Slice the quince paste into blocks and wrap in wax paper. Slide them into a zip top bag and store in the refrigerator for up to 12 months.
You could bake the paste in small glass jars to cover and keep in your fridge or to give as gifts instead of using the baking pan if you like. I have also greased cupcake liners, then placed them in the cupcake tin, poured in the purée. Once cooled, I peeled off the wrapper, wrapped them in wax paper and stored them.
This recipe is easily doubled.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 2 hour(s)
Diet type: Vegan
Diet tags: Gluten free
Number of servings (yield): 1
Culinary tradition: Spanish
Recipe by Pamela Braun.