The Locketts are taking over the food blogging world! Today’s column is from my sister, Jo. Membrillo (or Quince Paste) is a great homemade Christmas present for foodies too, especially those who like cheese. So, let me hand over to Jo (P.S. she slips into old school, ounces and inches, in parts – and none the worse for it):
This is easy, something a bit different and scents the kitchen with sweet, fragrant, honeyed smells. It takes a bit of time but is fun if you have a few hours to spare on a rainy afternoon to potter in the kitchen and create something really delicious and ‘foodie’ – either for yourself or as presents for cheese lovers or food connoisseurs.
Quinces can be hard to come by and most people I suspect, me included, wouldn’t really know what to do with them anyway. They are hard, floury and don’t taste very nice when raw. But cooked, they become something completely special and are usually made into membrillo, sometimes called quince paste, which is gorgeous with cheese, particularly manchego. I’ve had shop bought membrillo of course but I spotted quinces at a local farmers market and thought I’d grab them and work out the recipe later. Homemade usually being so much better than mass produced I thought. This worked excellently. I was impressed with myself, despite the sugar panic (see *) and will definitely make it again next time I spot quinces.
Recipe: Membrillo (Quince Paste)
Ingredients: (makes an 8 x 5 inch slab of membrillo – 1 inch thick)
- 5 quinces
- *Caster sugar and jam sugar (the amount will be determined at stage 2 of the cooking process)
- Half a vanilla pod, split lengthways
- 2 lemon slices
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Method: Stage 1:
- Peel and core the quinces and cut into rough chunks.
- Place these into a medium saucepan with the halved, split vanilla pod and lemon slices.
- Cover with water and simmer on a low heat, with the lid on, until soft – about 35 to 45 minutes.
- The colour of the quinces will change from a pale yellow (like pears) to a more terracotta colour and the fragrance will start to be released.
- Drain the softened quinces and remove the lemon slices and vanilla pod.
- Put the quinces into a food processor and blitz to a pulp.
- Scrape any remaining seeds from the vanilla pod back into this pulp.
- Weigh the pulp. It will be lighter than the original weight of the raw quinces and will determine how much sugar is required.
- Put the pulp back into the saucepan. The total weight of sugar should be 2/3 of the weight of the quince pulp. Rounding up or down – no need to be too exact. The proportion of caster sugar to jam sugar should be ¾ caster to ¼ jam sugar. E.g. 400g quince pulp (5 quinces should yield roughly this amount) = circa 270g sugar (200g caster and 70g jam sugar).
- Add the sugar and the tablespoon of lemon juice to the pulp and put on a very low heat with a splatter guard to protect from occasional volcanic bursts as it blips gently for 1 – 1 ½ hours. Don’t use a lid as this would create condensation and water down the mix.
- Keep a check on it and stir regularly. It will darken even more, turning to a deep terracotta colour. When a wooden spoon drawn through the bottom of it leaves a parting which closes very slowly and when it starts to come away from the sides of the pan when stirred, it’s ready for stage 3.
- Turn the fan oven onto the lowest heat setting. You aren’t really cooking this now, just helping it firm up and dry out. Line a baking tray or dish (8×5 inch) with greaseproof paper and lightly grease with a non-flavoured oil such as rapeseed.
- Pour the pulp mix into the tray and gently smooth the top.
- Put the tray in the oven and leave it on this lowest heat setting for about 1 hour. Then turn the oven off and leave it in there to continue drying for a few hours or even overnight.
- When cold, turn the set slab out, peel off the greaseproof paper and cut into wedges or squares.
- Each piece can then be wrapped in greaseproof paper and kept in airtight containers in the fridge for many weeks.
*The sugar calculation was an improvisation after running out of caster sugar (eeek!). I had read many recipes which suggested equal weight of sugar to pulp. I thought that may be too sweet for me as I often reduce the sugar in similar recipes if possible. But I subsequently read that the peel contains the pectin which helps it set. But the peel had been removed and thrown away….. (double eeek). Coring and peeling certainly makes it easier and quicker to cook the quinces to a pulp, but would it set? After an 11th hour panic I thought that jam sugar would solve both problems. Jam sugar contains pectin so this way it should firm up, yet not be overly sweet. It worked.