Membrillo (quince paste)

Quinces are amazing. So knobbly, hard and yellow and then add a bit of water and sugar, and suddenly they are soft, red and lovely. They are only in season around October through December, so now is the time to get some (unless you are at home in the southern hemisphere, when I guessing you may need to wait until March or so). One of the easiest things to make is membrillo, a Spanish version of quince paste.

Membrillo is very, very good with manchego. I don’t have any manchego to hand but I do now have lots of membrillo. It’s listed in my preserving book as a fruit cheese section, so seemed like a nice addition to put here. We had a cheese afternoon last Sunday and it went well with the Bath Blue.

Membrillo (based on the recipe in The Preserving Book)

It doesn’t really matter how many quince you use as the recipe is really about matching the weight with sugar. I used 3 large ones and got lots of membrillo.

The steps are really easy. Wash your quince really well, quarter and cut out the core and hard, fibrous centre. You can peel as well if you like but  as I’m a bit lazy I left the peel on and it cooked down completely. Chop up into smaller chunks and place in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Cover with water and add in a vanilla bean sliced open. Bring the water to the boil and then turn it down to  simmer for about 40 minutes or until the quince bits are soft and able to be easily mashed.

Strain off the water (some people keep this to make jam), remove the vanilla pod and mash up the quince to a pulp. Now you need to weigh the pulp and then puree it. This can be done however you prefer – I  used a hand blender stick, but other people push it through a sieve or use a food processor – what ever you have to hand will work fine. Once you have a smooth paste, put it back in the pan

Put the equivalent weight of granulated sugar into the pan, stir and cook over a low heat until it had dissolved. Then bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for around 45-60 minutes , until the paste has reduced, thickened and turned a deeper red colour. You should be getting plopping noises and be able to drag a wooden spoon across and and leave a trail.

Once it has finished cooking, there are a couple of options. I know the first one worked, and I’m waiting to see on the second.

The first option is to place the paste into a baking dish which is lined with greaseproof paper. Place this in an oven that has been preheated to about 100C and let it set there slowly over 2 hours. Once it is firm, remove from the over and let cool. You should then be able to remove the paper carefully, wrap the membrillo (either as a single block or in large pieces) in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container in the fridge. Various sources suggest this should keep for up to 1 year (I’m going to have to wait and see).

The second option I have tried but don’t know the results yet. Place the paste in sterilised glass ramekins or jars. Leave to cool and then either tip out, wrap in waxed paper and leave to age for 4-6 weeks, or leave to cook into the jar/ramekin, seal and leave to age for 4-6 weeks, or longer. I’ll let you know how this goes once we eat some in December or at Christmas.

[Update 7/12 – I’ve tried both the baked and not-baked versions now and prefer the baked version. It is a richer red and has a firmer texture, wheres as the other is more pale and paste-like]

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