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I Love Quince. Quince Loves You. 12.21.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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3 comments

At what point does a repeated act become a tradition?  I definitely refer to Christmas tree hunting in the  Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest a tradition, and that’s been happening for the last five years.  But, I’m only on year two of making Christmas presents for friends and family.  Last year, it was a bourbon laced caramel sauce.  This year everybody received Dulce de Membrillo, a firm quince paste.  I intend to continue food gifting for years, so perhaps that intention is enough to define a tradition.  Anyway.

Dulce de Membrillo is a sweet paste made with Quince, a fruit native to Asia.  Related to apples and pears, Quince looks like a large, green misshapen pear, with whitish, tart flesh.  As it ripens to a golden yellow its aroma of pineapple and rose becomes tangible.  Quince remains hard until cooked.  As it cooks, the fruit’s tannins break down and react with oxygen, producing a red color that deepens with further heating.  To get the color you see in Membrillo, quince is cooked for a long time, low and slow.  Here’s how it’s done.

Two cases of quince (about 40#) are allowed to ripen about one to two weeks, until their fragrance is overpowering and flesh bright yellow.  Then, they are washed, quartered and boiled in water until soft.  This takes a while.  When a knife moves effortlessly through the thickest part of a quarter, you know they are done.  Drain and cool the quarters.  Keep some of the liquid.

Next, remove the core and any stems.  Leave the skin on as quince skin (like most other friut skins) contains pectin, which will give the Membrillo greater firmness.  Throw the cored quarters into a food processor with some of the liquid and puree.  Remember the more liquid you add, the more you will have to simmer off.  However, the more liquid, the finer the quince will be pureed.  Moral dilemma!

Transfer the pureed quince back into the (cleaned) pot.  Figure out the weight of the puree.  Add sugar in a 2:5 ratio to the amount of quince.  Many recipes found online call for a ratio of 1:1, which I found too sweet.  If ripe, the quince has enough sugar to compensate for it’s tartness.  So, after pureeing I had 24 pound of quince.  I added about 10 pounds of sugar.

Turn the heat to a simmer and allow the sugar and quince to incorporate.  Taste.  Here you can add some lemon juice to cut the sweetness (I ended up adding about 2 cups).  I also added 2 split whole vanilla beans, for flavor.  And now, SIMMER.

The toughest thing to do is figure out what to do while it simmers because you NEED to watch and stir it frequently to prevent burning.  Some suggestions: refresh thanksgiving stuffing with squash and other leftovers; make a chocolate custard pie with an old candy bar and that unused pie shell in your freezer; write thank you notes for your birthday; bake your favorite Christmas cookie, heavy on nutmeg;  drinking your favorite scotch; watch family guy reruns; watch Youtube videos of Trey Anastasio jamming; and set a clean area of parchment paper to spread with hot paste.  Three days and a total of 18 simmering hours later:

You will know the Membrillo is done by color and consistency.  The color should be front bright red to a deep mouth-watering crimson.  Even super hot it should form fairly stiff peaks when stirred with a spoon.  Take the super hot, membrillo off the the heat an immediately transfer it to parchment paper, spreading with a flat object (plastic scrapers work great).  It cools fast so be speedy.  Allow it to fully cool overnight.  Cut it into squares with a sharp knife.  Eat.

Manchego cheese is the traditional Spanish complement to Membrillo.  Or you can spread it on a toasted baguette with a blue cheese, or a cracker with cream cheese.  Personally, I’ve been enjoying eating it plain and simple, like a gummy candy.

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