Saturday, December 02, 2006

Quince Membrillo

The Altitude Adjustment Section
Since we did Artichoke Pie as the recipe of the week, I thought I would go with Quince Membrillo for the seasonal recipe of the week. After having that delicious Quince Creme Brulee at Geronimo's on Friday I had quince on the brain. Membrillo is a fruit paste so thick you can slice it. It's just a very reduced preserve really, and can be made with a variety of fruits from guava to plum, to pear and hazelnut. Typically served with Spanish cheeses such as Manchego it makes a great addition to any cheese platter. I borrowed this great recipe from a food blog called Beyond the Bland.

6 medium quince, scrubbed and dried
2 to 3 cups of sugar or more
Flavoring options: lemon juice, lemon rind, ginger, spices

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the quince in a baking or roasting pan and seal the top with foil. Bake for about 2 hours or so, until the quince is tender. I find that baking concentrates the flavor, removes some water and makes the quince easier to peel. Other recipes call for peeling and boiling the quince, but I found that roasting is easier and produces a better end result.

Allow the quince to cool somewhat after it's removed from the oven and peel and remove the core and seeds. A melon baller works really well for this task. Cut up the pieces and puree in a food processor. If the mixture is too thick you can add a little water to thin it (a quarter cup at a time), but you’ll extend your stirring time in the next step. I try to avoid the water if possible.

Use a food mill (the easiest option) or force the puree through a sieve. Measure the quantity and add an equivalent amount of sugar cup for cup. If you want the end result a little less sweet, you can cut back the sugar somewhat, but be careful, it is easy to get a too tart result. Put the sugared puree into a heavy sauce pan and add flavorings if desired. I like adding the juice of half a lemon plus a teaspoon or so of grated for very finely minced lemon peel. Finely minced fresh ginger root is also excellent or you could add cinnamon, ground clove or similar spices.

Put the flavored mixture into a heavy sauce pan and get ready for a lot of stirring. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly. The mixture will start to get thick and boil and can throw a lot of hot splatter. I cover my stirring hand with a kitchen mitt. Over time, the color will become a beautiful, deep rosy brown and will eventually start to pull away from the bottom and sides of the pan. I find it takes at least 25 to 30 minutes (and more if you added water!). But don’t be dissuaded by the effort, you’ll end up with enough Membrillo to last for months and it will be worth every minute.

Lightly oil a deep glass baking dish and pour in the mixture. Smooth the top with a spatula and let it cool. Put it in the refrigerator, loosely covered with plastic wrap and let it firm up overnight. Run a knife around the edge of the paste and invert the baking dish to unmold. Wrap it well in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. It keeps for many months, but it will be long gone before storage becomes an issue!