So, quince. They’re so odd-looking but pretty, and they have such an intoxicating fragrance when they’re ripe. Plus, they’re elusive. It’s quite a quest to find quince fruit where I live, although you see quince bushes with their crazy bright-pink flowers everywhere in the springtime. A few years ago I pestered the produce people at my local shoprite every time I went. Eventually they got a big batch of quinces. I hope somebody else was glad to see them there!
So yesterday, when my friend Kate gave me a bag containing 5 quinces, it made my day! They were past the first blush of youth, and looked a little grey and furry, but they smelled ridiculously good!
I poached some in port wine with a large apple, and I made a sort of compote to go on my almond cake.
And with the rest I made membrillo, a Spanish quince paste that I’ve tried to make several times over the years with varying results. Well, it worked this time! I haven’t tasted it yet, but I almost don’t care how it tastes! Because it’s so damned pretty. I bought a vanilla bean towards the end of the summer, and I’ve been saving it the way I save really beautiful blank books that are too nice to actually write in. Well…membrillo was worth it! I’ll try to find some manchego cheese to go with it, which is how it’s meant to be eaten!
Here’s Quince, by Sonny Stitt
Peel and core your quince. Put them in a pot with lemon peel and a vanilla bean. Add water just to cover. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about half an hour, until the quince are soft. Drain. Puree the quince. weigh your quince puree, measure out the exact same amount of sugar. Put the quince puree and sugar in a sauce pan and simmer on low heat for about 2 hours, till it’s thick and much darker. Put your quince puree into a parchment or foil-lined dish. (Pick one that’s a nice shape, for ultimate membrillo prettiness) Put this into an oven on very very low heat (125 or less) for about 2 hours. Take out, let cool, unmold.
Poached quince and apple
Put peeled cored chopped quince with peeled cored chopped apple in a saucepan. Add 1 cup water, 1 cup port, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, and 1 star anise (if you like star anise! It’s a strong flavor) Add 1 long lemon peel, 1 shortish orange peel. Bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for about an hour till the fruit is soft, and all the flavors are well-combined.
Serve over ice cream or cake or oatmeal, or granola…