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I Love Quince. Quince Loves You. 12.21.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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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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Plum Mania 2: Brandy Plums 10.20.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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NOT human viscera.A combination of simple syrup, plums, and cheap brandy become something boozy and magical.  Wash and pit the plums, stuff them into a big mason jar, pour hot simple syrup over within an inch or two of the top.  Fill the remainder with a we bit more brandy than you think is needed.  Cover, can.

Then in the dead of winter, when you and your friends are craving the warmth of a sunny august day, get drunk on the memories of summer.

Adapted from a Joy of Cooking recipe for brandied peaches.  (which I feel is further evidence of two things: cooks like to drink and everything tastes better with a little liquor…cheers!)

Plum Mania 3: Plum Engagement Tart 10.12.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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Even though I made this I STILL WANT TO EAT IT THROUGH THE SCREENFinally, we wrap up plum mania (and the last of the plums from our coworker’s tree with this mouthwatering plum tart.  Beautiful right?  Yep, sometimes I impress even myself.  This was the first time that Bread and Buttress has made pie crust…ever.

Pie crust is what I like to consider one of those “Othello” type skills.  Needless to say, daunting.  However, with some insider tips (thanks Elaine) I felt confident.  Biggest tip: everything should be hella cold.  So, after mixing the dough, I refrigerated it.  Hours later, after rolling it, I refrigerated it.  After forming it in the pie pan, fridge.  What resulted was a flaky yet strong crust. that adequately held the contents of the tart.

Anyhow, if you’d like further crust information, email me.  I’m happy to share.  The tart itself uses washed, pitted, and halved plums that have been lightly sugared (because they were super ripe already).  The plums sat on top of an almond paste painstakingly made by my skilled girlfriend.  A brandy custard was poured over carefully arranged plums.  An hour in the oven and topped with a homemade peach glaze (gives it that nice sheen).  The results:

Fuzzy enjoyment of said tart.

It deserves to be noted that this tart was fashioned at the last minute to celebrate the engagement of two dear and awesome friends.  Nothing celebrates better than food right?  Congrats Joe and Kelly!

Plum Mania Part 1: Plum Jam 09.29.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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We're going to destroy these little guys

Nothing signifies the start of Fall in Seattle like ripe plums…or rather, friends trying to dump their ripe plums in your lap.  For us, picking plums from a coworker’s tree in Sunset Hill was a welcome act of charity.  A half hour of picking and gathering of treefall yielded enough plums to poke around with a few different recipes.  First off, Plum Jam.

Always use butter on your toast.  Always.Jam comes in all different forms.  Thick, thin, smooth, chunky.  It’s perfection depends less on ingredients and more on preference.  What follows is an easy spreading jam, with no added pectin.  It depends more on the fruit solids and natural pectin for consistency.  Jam is also a great example of a recipe that depends on personal taste rather than proportion.  Let your tongue be your measuring cup.

You will need:

  • Plums (Italian pictured here.  maybe 10lbs)
  • Sugar (maybe 4 cups)
  • Lemon Juice (from real lemons only.  maybe 1 cup)
  • Big Pot
  • Drill with paint mixer attachment

Jam is a great oportunity to use treefall, or plums that have fallen to the ground.  Gather only those that have been unpuntured.  Usually that means a bird or a slug has gotten to them first.  If they’ve fallen, chances are they are super ripe.  Rinse the plums.  Pit them by shoving your thumb in and tearing them open.  Scoop out the pit with a finger and through the roughly halved plum into a deep pot.  Add the sugar.  Juice lemons, making sure to pick out or strain all the seeds before adding the juice to the pot.

What the...metal?  It's ginger.  Keep flavoring separate to maintain a consistent end product.Place it on high heat.  Stir occassionally to prevent the bottom from carmelizing.  When it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer.  We probably let this batch go for about an hour plus.  Note that we also added a bunch of chopped ginger in a tea ball for flavor.  This made a subtle but nice complement to the plum.  though it is not necessary because the jam is going to be friggin’ amazing without it.  Just saying.

The consistency desired here is easy spreading but not watery.  Because we’re going to be blending the plums we looked for the syrupy part of the mixture to barely coat a spoon while hot.

Enter the power tools.  Grab your drill and your (brand new from your local hardware store, and washed) paint mixing blade.  Still that sucker in and pull the trigger.  Be amazed as your plum goop turns into a beautiful crimson jam.

Just like in the Odyssey!

Here’s where taste comes in.  Once blended give it a try.  Try it again.  Ask a friend to try it too.  Does it need to be sweeter?  Add sugar.  Does the sugar overpower the plum?  Add lemon juice.  Those are your two options.  Once you’re got the taste right.  Bring it back to a boil to safely integrate the added ingredients.  Aaaaand…done!

We canned it by boiling and it looks great.  Tastes even better.  Stay tuned for part 2 when we brandy plums!

You won't eat it all.  Give it away you packrat.