While scouring grocery stores last week in search of pumpkin puree and figs (to make jam, but I’m too late; they’re gone), I came across quinces. Had these quinces not been labeled, I would have walked right past them, as I’m oft to do with some of the other exotic and puzzling produce that I come across. My only familiarity to quince is from membrillo, or quince paste, which often accompanies cheese boards. I love membrillo and have bought it from gourmet grocery stores, but it’s extremely expensive for a small container. I had no idea how to make quince paste from these large, lumpy, and furry massive fruits, but figured I’d find a recipe online.
I bought four quinces, figuring that would be enough to make something and headed home to my computer. I found hundreds of recipes, all slightly different. Some called for peeling, then poaching the fruit, while others recommended roasting it. From what I read, the fruit is quite worthless unless you cook it first. I opted for the roasting method, hoping to avoid the peeling step, and modified a recipe from Gourmet (January, 1998).
My only alteration to the recipe below is that in step six, you wait until the liquid has turned a deep reddish hue. My quince paste is a little on the pinkish side as opposed to the deep, dark red that it should be. Regardless of the color, it tastes fantastic and was a hit at our Thanksgiving.
In addition to finding lots of recipes, I also found the history of quinces interesting. Here’s a snippet of quince trivia, which might come in hand if you’re ever playing the game Foodie Fight.
4 medium quinces (about 2 pounds total)
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
2 to 3 cups sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly oil a 1-quart terrine and line with buttered parchment. (I used a mini loaf pan instead.)
2. Scrub quinces and pat dry. (My quinces had a strange, furry coating that I rubbed off). In a small roasting pan bake quinces, covered with foil, in middle of oven until tender, about 2 hours, and transfer pan to a rack.
3. When quinces are cool enough to handle, with a sharp knife peel, quarter, and core them.
4. In a food processor puree pulp with 1/4 cup water until smooth (if mixture is too thick, add remaining 1/4 cup water a little at a time, as needed). Force puree through a large fine sieve or cheese cloth into a liquid cup measure and measure amount of puree.
5. Transfer puree to a 3-quart heavy saucepan and add an equivalent amount of sugar.
6. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cook quince puree over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened and begins to pull away from side of pan, about 25 minutes. (Keep stirring until the liquid has turned a deep reddish color).
7. Pour puree into terrine, smoothing top with an offset spatula. Place in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes to further dry the quince paste. Cool and chill puree, loosely covered with plastic wrap, until set, about 4 hours.
8. Run a thin knife around sides of terrine and invert quince paste onto a platter. (Quince paste keeps, wrapped well in wax paper and then plastic wrap and chilled, 3 months–I’ve also read that it keeps indefinitely. The sugar works as a preservative).
9. Slice paste and serve with cheese and crackers.
Makes about 2 1/4 pounds quince paste.