Not familiar with quince? It’s a hard fruit that looks sort of like a cross between an apple and a pear. Most varieties you can’t eat raw, only cooked. They cook up pink and have a wonderful sweet floral aroma. Like apples and pears, they’re in season during autumn.
Quince paste is practically the national snack of Spain when paired with Manchego, sheep’s milk cheese. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll see what all the fuss is about, and you may even be motivated to try your hand at making some, which is exactly what happened to me.
- 4 pounds quince
- 1 vanilla pod, split
- 2 strips (1cm by 4cm each) of lemon peel
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 4-6 cups of granulated sugar
Thoroughly wash the quince. Then peel and chop roughly. Place chopped quince in a bowl of water. Set the cores aside in another large clean bowl of water for two hours. You will use this water later.
After two hours remove the quince cores from your bowl of water and discard. Place quince pieces in a large saucepan. Add the “quince core water” to the saucepan so that the fruit is barely covered. Add the vanilla pod and lemon peel and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook until the quince pieces are fork tender (20-40 minutes).
Raw quince with lemon peel and vanilla pod – Strain the water from the quince pieces. Take out the vanilla pod and discard but keep the lemon peel with the quince. Purée the quince pieces in a food processor, blender, or by using a food mill.
Making quince puree with the food mill – For the paste you will need equal quantities of sugar and quince. Measure the quince purée. If you have 4 cups of purée, you’ll need 4 cups of sugar. Return the quince purée to the large pan and add the sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice.
Quince puree and sugar – Continue to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1-1 1/2 hours, until the quince paste is very thick and has a deep orange pink color. Test by dropping a little of the mixture on a plate to see if it sets to a jam-like consistency when it cools.
Preheat oven to a low 125°F (52°C). Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper with a thin coating of butter. Pour the cooked quince paste into the parchment paper-lined baking pan. Smooth out the top of the paste so it is even. Place in the oven for about 8 hours to help it dry. Remove from oven and let cool.
If you have unset quince paste, simply returned the quince to the baking pan so that the uncooked part was on top, until the paste is fully set.
Serving suggestion – Cut into squares or wedges and present with the spanish Manchego cheese. To eat, take a small slice of the quince paste and spread it on top of a slice of the cheese.
Storage – Wrap in plastic film and keep in the refrigerator.