You may notice that this is the second quince paste recipe on the blog. My friend Barbara made the first one, and my taste buds know how wonderful her quince paste turned out. But I made some too, and packaged it up differently from hers, so you can pick which version you want to make and package it up her way or my way. Or do something completely different – and if you do, please let us know!
Barbara and I met over quince paste and membrillo. She calls it quince paste; I call it membrillo, because that’s what it is called in Spain where I discovered it. Barbara and I both have spent several years puzzling over this sweet delicacy; how to make it and what to do with it. Two years ago, she made quince paste from her own home grown fruits; she sent a sample to me at work and I instantly recalled my trip to Spain and the fantastic membrillo discovery, of which her sample was exactly the same. That got quince into my head, so when I was at a farmer’s market in Los Angeles, I bought some quince fruits, brought them back home and cooked them up. It did not become membrillo. It turned into something more like gum. Very dark, very sweet, and very hard to cut. I rolled the cut chunks into little balls, then rolled them in sugar and served them as glittery, rubbery balls that came with coffee after dinner. They were delicious in a chewy sort of way, and there was no doubt about that exotic ultra-fruity essence of quince. I tried again with more quince I found here in Portland, with the same results.
I decided to plant a quince tree so I would have plenty to work with in the future. But last fall my tree had no fruit (it’s probably not mature yet). Barbara had lots of quince on her tree and she gave me a big bag full, and so began again a flurry of conversations again about quince. She sent over a little sample of her quince paste wrapped in a darling little envelope of wax paper. It was beautiful, deep rose-colored, with – that taste! – that unforgettable quince taste. And it was tender; it sliced beautifully, just like cranberry jelly.
I quizzed her about how she made it. I wrote down every detail. It is so simple, I can’t see how I could go wrong. I guessed that I had cooked my earlier batches too long, and with this year’s batch, I vowed to handle it very gently. I made two batches, and they BOTH turned out wonderful! I actually can’t say exactly what I did right this time, except that I was very careful not to leave it on the stove for long.
This series of photos from Simple, Green, Frugal Co-Op shows how the color and consistency changes (do not be dismayed by this cook’s time of 3.5 hours to cook her quince; she must have had it on extremely low). Use the last photo as a guide for seeing when the consistency and color tell you it’s ready. Another sign it is close to being ready is that you will see lumps of quince on the sides of the pan which look like jelly. And you can also do a test. Drop a tiny bit of the puree into ice cold water; take it out after a minute and you will see if it is jelled.
When ready, immediately pour the thickened puree to about 1 1/2 inches thick into your prepared pans. It will begin to set immediately. Within 30 minutes it should be firm enough to tip out of the pan. At this time it will be ready to serve, and will keep for many months at room temperature. If you live in a temperate climate like ours in Oregon, store your quince paste in the pantry in covered tins lined with lightly buttered wax paper or parchment. If your climate is very hot and humid, you may want to store it in the refrigerator. It will be good for a year.
Because of its natural pairing and the feast of “perfect pair” references for wording, this gift makes a perfect wedding favor. It makes wonderful holiday gifts and hostess gifts as well. What is really fun about it is its rare quality of unfamiliarity. Most people have never heard of it, so it is an opportunity to introduce something to people that they have never tried before. It will be received well, believe me!
In northern Spain, slices of membrillo are served with matching thin slices of Manchego cheese as a light dessert. You eat them together. No bread. Just cheese and membrillo. To make these gifts, I bought a large chunk of Manchego cheese and cut it down to the right size blocks. Measure carefully, this cheese is precious and a mismeasured cut can be costly! I cut the membrillo to the same dimensions, again measuring carefully.
You Will Need:
• 3 x 3 x 2 boxes
• Manchego cheese
• Strips of wax paper or parchment paper
• Plastic wrap
• Shape 01 square labels
• Shape 10 tags
• Shape 14 seal labels
• Hard board to cut into dividers – I cut down one of my boxes into about six dividers
Assemble the boxes. Cut the manchego and the membrillo into exactly the same size blocks. Wrap each block individually in a small piece of plastic wrap. I laid out a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter, then cut it into small squares that were the perfect size for wrapping the blocks. Seal with a small shape 14 oval label.
Cut parchment or wax paper into a strip 2 – 3/4” x 11”. Lay the strip in the bottom of the box, press it in so the ends are lined up to be centered once the cheese and membrillo are placed in the box. Cut small boards 1 – 3/4” x 2 – 3/4” to fit between the blocks in the boxes. Place a block each of cheese and membrillo in each box, separate with a board. Wrap the parchment over the top and seal with an oval shape 14 label. Wrap twine off-center around the box, tie in a bow, add label and tag.