My Beautiful Quince Paste Experiment
Dec. 2, 2009 5:26 pm
Updated: Nov. 25, 2010 9:51 am
Like I wrote in my review for this Quince Paste recipe, I love quince. I love them so much—and they’re so hard to find most of the time in the U.S.—that we planted a quince tree in our yard. This was the first year that our tree produced a bumper crop, so I was thrilled to be able to make homemade membrillo. Did you know that the Portuguese word for quince, marmela, is the origin of the word marmalade? Well, there you go. Today’s little culinary tidbit.
Anyway, this was a long project, but not a difficult one. Peeling, coring, and cutting the fruit is the most difficult part; raw quince are really firm, so it’s kind of like cutting up a bunch of rutabagas. I use a melon baller to dig out the cores. Luckily, quince paste keeps indefinitely and this recipe makes a ton, so I’ll be able to divvy it up and give it as gifts.
I added way too much water in the preliminary cooking stage (you add water to cover, and cook the chopped peeled quince until soft enough to pass through a food mill). That extra liquid added a lot of time to the process…but like I said, it was time-consuming, not technically difficult. The cooked pureed quince is combined with an equal amount, by weight, of sugar; I added a little more than two pounds of sugar to my watery puree. One of the magical things about this fruit, I think, is the way the color changes as it cooks. The puree starts out looking like applesauce, but after an hour or more of simmering, the color deepens to a lovely shade of pink. After more drying and aging, the paste becomes a deep ruby red. Oh, and a note about the stovetop cooking stage: have you ever cooked polenta? Do you know how the mixture resembles molten lava…especially when it burbles and spits up and spatters your bare arm? This is very similar. Use caution when you try to stir it.
If you want to taste quince without spending a fortune (they were $2.50/lb at my local farmers' market), start small: chop one up and add it to a homemade applesauce recipe. I don't add sugar: just apples, apple juice, and chopped quince. Delicious!
Closeup of quince paste with manchego on slices of baguette.
Fresh quince, shining in the sun!
Cooking quince puree and sugar: it starts out the color of applesauce.
Food mill, for pureeing the cooked quince.
Quince puree-sugar mixture, after 1.5 hours. See how pink it's gotten?
Finished Quince Paste: deep, beautiful ruby color.
The finished paste is solid and sliceable--perfect on a fruit and cheese plate.