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Quince Paste

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Serves 16

  • by Juli Roberts from Fine Cooking
    Issue 113

In Spain, slices of this sweet, fragrant paste, called membrillo, are served atop wedges of rich Manchego cheese as an hors d’oeuvre. Try it with goat cheese as well—or just put it out for breakfast in place of jam.

  • 2 lb. quinces (about 4 medium), peeled, cored, and chopped into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out
  • 2 strips lemon zest (each 1/2 x 2 inches)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar; more or less as needed
  • 2 T bs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T bs. unsalted butter, softened

Put the quinces, vanilla bean pod and seeds, and lemon zest in a 4-quart saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the quinces are tender when poked with a knife, about 40 minutes.

Drain the quinces in a colander and discard the vanilla bean. Purée the fruit and lemon zest in a food processor. Measure the purée by volume, return it to the saucepan, and add an equal volume of sugar. (For example, if you have 2 cups of purée, add 2 cups of sugar.)

Cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the purée becomes a very thick paste, about 1-1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 125°F. If your oven doesn’t go this low, use the lowest temperature possible and expect a shorter cooking time. Line an 8x8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with parchment and grease with the butter. Pour the quince paste (don’t scrape the pot) into the dish and smooth the top with the wooden spoon. Bake until slightly dried and firm enough to slice, about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Invert onto a cutting board and cut the quince paste into four 2-inch-wide strips. Wrap each strip in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Make Ahead Tips

The quince paste will keep for up to 1 month.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 120; Fat (g): 1; Fat Calories (kcal): 5; Saturated Fat (g): 0; Protein (g): 0; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 0; Carbohydrates (g): 31; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): 0; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 1;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Very sweet, with a slightly grainy texture, like that of guava paste, but with a flavor all its own. I'm glad to know that this paste is freezable, because my husband doesn't like it (too sweet and stiff); I have to eat it all myself. Quinces are so fragrant, that the house smelled like some exotic perfume while the paste was in the oven, and for hours afterward. I think next year I might bake it in small, glass refrigerator containers. That way I can just cover the surfaces with parchment paper, put on the tight-fitting lids, and pop most of them in the freezer.

I made this recipe exactly one year ago and have just enough left for one more serving. It is the best appetizer ever! I prepared it as stated in the recipe and poured it onto a parchment lined jelly roll pan. I smoothed out the surface and placed another sheet of parchment over it to store it. I kept the paste in my freezer in this way until today when we finally finished it. I slice it in a long row and cut diagonally across to create triangle sliced the shape of my cheese. I keep a wedge of Spanish Manchego cheese in my cheese drawer to create this tasty treat when we have guests. I just went next door to my neighbors tree and got another batch for this next year. I am so happy to make this favorite dish again!

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