Quince ("membrillo" in Spanish) comes into season just in time for the holidays, and it's delicious in both sweet and savory winter dishes.
Quince paste is a gourmet specialty, and you can buy it online and enjoy it all year-round.
- 2 to 3 quince
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- About 2 cups sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Peel and core the quince.
- Cut into large wedges.
- Place the fruit in a pot and cover with water.
- Add the lemon juice.
- Bring the water to a boil and cook the fruit until it's very soft.
- Drain and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Process the fruit in a food processor or blender until it is smooth, about the consistency of applesauce.
- Measure the fruit -- you should have about 2 cups -- and place it in a heavy-bottomed pot.
- Add sugar equal to three-fourths of the amount of fruit and stir the sugar into the fruit. (If you have 2 cups of fruit, add 1 1/2 cups of sugar.)
- Add a pinch of salt.
- Bring the sugar and fruit to a low boil and simmer, stirring frequently, on low heat.
- Cook slowly, keeping the mixture barely at a boil and stirring often to prevent burning, until the mixture thickens.
- Continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is a thick paste that stays together in a ball. The mixture should seem stretchy and almost dry. The fruit will change color and become a bright orange-red.
- Pour into a lightly oiled dish and let cool.
- Slice when firm.
- Fruit paste will keep for several weeks, covered, in the refrigerator.
Quince grow in the same way as apples and pears -- on deciduous trees. They are not native to the United States, but they are grown in California. And they are not that easy to find; farmer's markets and boutique grocery stores are your best bet.
Unlike apples and pears, quince do not look appealing, sometimes misshapen and with gray fuzz. That doesn't entice you to eat a quince. And they do not taste good raw and are difficult to eat.
But the pleasure of quince is in the cooking of them. They release a delicious scent as they turn from light yellow to pink. Mixed with sugar and water or wine, quince transforms into a delicate treat. Besides making quince paste, you can pour the mixture over ice cream or yogurt or make it into a pie.