A couple of weeks ago, I found the very last of the quinces at the University District Farmers Market. Whistling Train farm had a box that had been in cold storage since before the freeze. Even though I’d made a huge batch of Quince Marmalade a few months ago, I was itching to try one other recipe I’d heard people rave about. Membrillo. Membrillo is actually the name for quince in Spain. The fruit is cooked down with sugar and then dried out into something very much like a thick fruit leather that’s served with cheese.
Back when quinces were everywhere, all I had on my brain was the quince “tea” that I’d had at Joule last year. But the word membrillo kept popping up on Twitter. I admit, even with my fantastic marmalade in hand, I felt leftout. SoI vowed that if I ever saw local quince again, membrillo would be at the top of my recipe list.
Even though quince starts out with a yellow skin and a pale yellow flesh, when cooked and mixed with sugar, the fruit turns anywhere from a light pink to a deep red color. This recipe is incredibly simple, though it is helped greatly by a food processor, a food mill, or the fruit and vegetable strainer attachment for the KitchenAid. There are very few amounts in this recipe because basically the amount of sugar you’ll need is equal to the amount of quince puree you make. In general, 5 medium quinces will make about 2 cups of puree, and require about 2 cups of sugar.
Membrillo adapted from several sources
- 1 vanilla bean, whole
- 1 lemon (rind and juice)
- Scrub the quince to remove any fuzz and cut out any damaged parts.
- Quarter the quinces and core.
- In a large pot, cover the quinces, the lemon peel, and the vanilla bean with water and simmer until soft, about an hour.
- Drain the quinces and reserve the vanilla bean.
- If you’re using a food processor or blender, peel the quinces. Otherwise process in the food mill.
- Measure the puree.
- In a pot, combine the puree with the same amount of sugar and the juice of one lemon.
- Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the mix.
- Cook for 30 minutes over low to medium heat, just at a simmer, stirring frequently.
- Cool slightly.
- Spread a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
- Butter the parchment paper (the easiest way to do this is to unwrap one end of the stick and drag it over the parchment paper).
- Spread the quince paste over the parchment paper, to about 1/2 inch thickness.
- Air dry or see Notes.
Notes: Working with quince can be difficult. They are incredibly hard fruits and quartering them and coring them requires great care and not inconsiderable strength. So be careful with those knives. If you have a food mill or the fruit and vegetalble strainer for the KitchenAid, this process gets a lot easier because you don’t have to core them. Just quarter them and let the food mill handle the separating of the cores and the seeds. With the KitchenAid attachment your whole active working time is reduced to less than 20 minutes. Otherwise, plan a good hour of active time for this recipe.
If you’re air drying the membrillo, makesure that you have a warm and relatively dry location. Cover the membrillo with a second buttered layer of parchment paper on top to prevent it catching anything floating in the air. However, the easier way to dry the membrillo is in the oven. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, you can just slide the tray into the oven and the slight heat from the pilot light will dry the membrillo in about 36 hours. Otherwise, turn the oven to the lowest setting (usually 150 or 200) and bake the membrillo for 4-5 hours, checking every hour.
You’ll know the membrillo is done when you can touch it and no residue sticks to your fingers. A pizza cutter works great for cutting the membrillo into rectangles, or for a more creative look, try cookie cutters and make membrillo stars or hearts. The membrillo will last tightly sealed for at least a month. Though I highly doubt anyone could have this in the house that long and not eat it.
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