Dulce de Membrillo

Finally the last of the quince have been harvested from my tree, a lovely fan-shaped Meeches Prolific growing against the garden wall. I’ve soaked them in brandy syrup, pickled them, cooked them with lamb in a tagine inspired dish, made jam, handed a precious few out to friends and carefully wrapped the best unblemished ones in newspaper for storing in my apple rack. The rest will be pulped.

By pulped, I mean the quinces are cooked, mashed, put through the food mill, sweetened and boiled down to be alchemically transmuted into the rose-gold, magical Dulce de Membrillo. Or, as it is prosaically called in Britain, Quince Cheese (or sometimes Quince Paste).

Dulce de Membrillo has ancient origins. Some say it originated with the Romans who referred to the quince as the melimelum or honey apple. Linguistically, it is related to various words for jams or fruit preserves: Italian marmellata, Greek marmelada, French marmelade, Spanish and Portuguese mermelada and even English marmalade.

Do not be tempted to start making this late in the afternoon. It takes hours to cook and can be an all day process! A good rainy day weekend project.

quince_paste

Dulce de Membrillo
A speciality of the Iberian peninsula. Eat with a semi-hard, sharp cheese, traditionally the Spanish manchego cheese. But, as an alternative to pears, I love it with gorgonzola. I usually make a lot because I give little pots of it as holiday gifts.

Makes about 3 to 3-1/2 (US) pints

  • 4 lbs. quince, approximately 12-14 small to medium size
  • 2 cups water
  • 7 cups sugar (approximate) – 1 cup per cup of pulp

Clean and cut each of the quinces into quarters. There is no need to peel or core. Cut each quarter into large chunks and place in a large pot with the water. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer until the fruit has become very soft and is beginning to break down. Timing depends on the size of the chunks and the ripeness of the quinces.

quince_prep1

When the quinces are cooled slightly, put through a food mill (a mouli) or pressed through a sieve with the back of a wooden spoon. Discard the skin, pits and coarse bits of the core. Measure the pulp. From 4 lbs. of quinces, I got approximately 7 cups of pulp. Measure an equal amount of sugar. Clean your pot and put the pulp and sugar in, mixing until the sugar has dissolved.

Heat on medium heat until it begins to bubble then reduce to the lowest temperature. Use a heat diffuser if you have one as this will decrease the chance that the quince will stick to the bottom of the pot. Also, if you want a smoother, finer texture, use a hand blender to further purée the pulp. The quince will slowly begin to turn rosy as it reduces and thickens. Stir periodically, more frequently near the end of the process and use a long-handled wooden spoon as the hot pulp splatters and can burn your hands.

quince_prep2

When it has reached a deep rose gold color and has thickened to a near solid, pot up in clean squat jars with wide mouths. This process can take many hours, but your house will be beautifully perfumed by the delicious sweet aroma. Cool and seal. Store in the refrigerator for up to a year.

quince_cheese

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4 comments

    • I’ve been making membrillo for years now and each time it seems different – too hard, too soft, too grainy, not enough sugar… It’s tricky to get the proportions and the timing right – a lot is left to experience. So…keep trying. Even if it is more paste than a cuttable “cheese” it is still good to serve with cheese – gorgonzola or other blue cheeses are my favourites.

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