Membrillo (Quince Paste)

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Ever since I started making quince jelly people have been telling me about membrillo, a quince paste that is practically the national snack of Spain when paired with Manchego, sheep’s milk cheese. Nicky and Melissa have written about membrillo, enough to inspire me to go to Whole Foods and buy some to try for myself.

Oh my gosh. If you have never tried membrillo with Manchego, get yourself to the nearest Whole Foods or other specialty market and buy some. If I lived in Spain I would eat this every day. 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.

Membrillo

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 the fall.

Membrillo (Quince Paste) Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 4 pounds quince, washed, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 2 strips (1/2 inch by 2 inches each) of lemon peel (only the yellow peel, no white pith)
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • About 4 cups of granulated sugar, exact amount will be determined during cooking

Method

1 Place quince pieces in a large saucepan (6-8 quarts) and cover with water. 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 (30-40 minutes).

2 Strain the water from the quince pieces. Discard the vanilla pod but keep the lemon peel with the quince. Purée the quince pieces in a food processor, blender, or by using a food mill. Measure the quince purée. Whatever amount of quince purée you have, that's how much sugar you will need. So if you have 4 cups of purée, you'll need 4 cups of sugar. Return the quince purée to the large pan. Heat to medium-low. Add the sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice.

3 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.

4 Preheat oven to a low 125°F (52°C). Line a 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper (do not use wax paper, it will melt!). Grease the parchment 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 an hour to help it dry. Remove from oven and let cool.

To serve, cut into squares or wedges and present with Manchego cheese. To eat, take a small slice of the membrillo and spread it on top of a slice of the cheese. Store by wrapping in foil or plastic wrap, an keeping in the refrigerator.

Note: The first time I made this the top part set, but the bottom had not. To fix, I emptied the quince paste into a large pyrex bowl and put in the microwave. I cooked it on high in 5 minute increments for 20 minutes. During the last minute one of the edges started to caramelize and turn brown. This you don't want to have happen, as the caramelized parts destroy the flavor, but in this case it was a good indication that the rest of the quince paste was ready. I discarded the browned parts and returned the rest to a newly lined baking dish. Back into the oven for an hour and it was done to perfection.

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Links:

Shuna on Quince
Membrillo with cinnamon and lemon by Wendy of A Wee Bit of Cooking
Quince tart by Pip in the City
Ice cream made with mebrillo by Desert Candy
Poached Quince by David Lebovitz

Dulce de Membrillo, Quince Paste

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Showing 4 of 87 Comments

  • san clemente

    Hi, I have been making quince paste for years. You can make it from any kind of quinces, the decorative small ones that grow on bushes (Japonica species) or the tree ones (Chinese). If they are small and rock-hard, I just quarter them, take out the seeds (they may be slightly toxic inside), cook the pieces in a small amount of water to prevent burning, and when soft put them through a food sieve. Then measure the pulp by weight or volume, add a bit less sugar, and cook, stirring, till it seems done as above. Some quinces change color, some don’t. Germans spread the paste out to dry, cut it into small diamonds/triangles/squares, coat with coarse sugar, and serve as a Christmas ‘candy’. I eat it with cheese and give to friends.

  • Nancy

    Since Hubby is from Uruguay I got hooked on membrillo. It’s a tradition there that when it rains you make torta frita, fried dough, and have it with cheese and membrillo. Yum. I have been making membrillo for about 25 years. Thought I would try your recipe. For our taste there was too much sugar and couldn’t taste the quince, so I just added more quince. I just bake mine in the oven stirring occasionally and when it’s got that beautiful deep rich color I pack it in freezer containers and freeze it . Lasts forever. But then again we always run out because it’s so good.

  • claudia

    In Uruguay we call cheese with membrillo Martin Fierro and I’d love my kids to try it but the quince paste at Whole Foods is so pricey that i always end up putting it back. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Thank you

  • Jo Coward

    Help! My quince paste will not set, and I have used all my bumper crop this time. I cooked them in water whole as I could not face the peeling and coring. I then pushed it all through a sieve ,with most of the pips, so I should have enough pectin. Simmered it in a preserving pan on the Aga for over two hours, it went the lovely dark colour, but it wasn’t coming away from the side of the pan, so I put it in the oven as suggested, but it is still unset. Should I leave it to dry, and for how long or should I put it all back in the pan and try again.

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