Also know as quince paste or membrillo its full Spanish name is Dulce de Membrillo. Long associated with Spain and Portugal quince were the original ingredient for marmalade, a word derived from the Portuguese marmelada meaning to prepare quinces.
Quince cheese is a thick, sweet jelly made from the pulp of the quince. In her book Preserves (River Cottage Handbook No.2) jam-maker Pam Corbin describes it thus, ‘A fruit cheese is simply a solid, sliceable preserve – and the princely quince, with its exquisite scent and delicately grainy texture, makes the most majestic one of all. It can be potted in small moulds to turn out, slice and eat with cheese. Alternatively you can pour it into shallow trays to set, then cut it into cubes, coat with sugar and serve as a sweetmeat.’
There are numerous recipes for preparing your cheese or membrillo but the difficulty in the UK can be finding quince. If you are lucky to know the owner of a fruit-bearing quince tree or see some quince for sale in your local shop then have a go at making your own – it’s delicious!
Pam Corbin’s tried and tested recipe makes about 1kg of jelly.
You need the following ingredients:
- 1kg quince
- 500-750g granulated sugar
- Food-grade paraffin wax, for sealing
Rub the contents of the pan through a sieve or pass through a mouli. Weigh the pulp and return it to the cleaned-out pan, adding an equal weight of sugar. Bring gently to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer gently, stirring frequently, for an hour and a bit until really thick and glossy. It may bubble and spit like a volcano, so do take care. The mixture is ready when it is so thick that you can scrape a spoon through it and see the base of the pan for a couple of seconds before the mixture oozes together again.
If you're using small dishes or straight-sided jars, brush them with a little glycerine. This will make it easy to turn out the cheese. If you're using a shallow baking tray or similar, line it with greaseproof paper, allowing plenty of overhang to wrap the finished cheese.
When the cheese is cooked, pour it into the prepared moulds or jars. To seal open moulds, pour melted food-grade paraffin wax over the hot fruit cheese. Jars can be sealed with lids. Cheese set in a shallow tray should be covered with greaseproof paper and kept in the fridge.
For optimum flavour, allow the quince cheese to mature for 4–6 weeks before using. Eat within 12 months.
For more quince recipes, and jelly from all types of fruit including prickly pear and medlar, then Mrs Beeton's Jam-making and Preserves has it all.
And if all went well your quince cheese will look something like this: