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Quince Membrillo

Quince Membrillo

Membrillo is one of the most common uses for quince. Essentially a quince jam, it is cooked three separate times to achieve a thicker, sliceable consistency, almost like a pate de fruit. Don't be afraid of this extra work! Most of it is inactive cooking time and it is well worth the effort. The white or yellow quince turns a beautiful deep red when cooked this way and is a gorgeous contrast when served on crackers with a sheep milk cheese such as Manchego or Asiago. The formerly tart quince becomes so sweet and luscious that the membrillo can almost be called a fruit candy.

The following recipe calls for a pound of quince, but the measurements can be easily scaled up for any amount of fruit you have on hand. You can also can the membrillo just as you would any other fruit jam, however the baking stage lends itself best to shorter, half pint jars. This year I made a monstrous batch of membrillo and plan to give small jars away as Christmas gifts.

I recommend not bothering to peel the quince; your wrists will thank you, and I have found that if you are diligent in the pureeing step it makes no difference in the final product.

4 quince, about 1 pound, cored and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 cup sugar, exact measurement to be determined

Place the quince in a large heavy bottomed stock pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Let it gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the quince is fork tender, about 40 minutes. Drain the quince. (A side note: the cooking liquid has a wonderful tart quince flavor, I kept it and made quince mead, but that's a story for another day.)

Puree the quince using a food processor or a food mill. I prefer to use a food mill. It takes a little more muscle, especially for larger batches, but you get a more consistent texture. If you do use a food processor, you should take the time to strain the mixture, but it doesn't have to be a fine mesh strainer. You don't want to strain out any of the fruit, just the larger chunks that avoided the food processor blades.

Now you need to measure your puree. It's easiest to use a large, glass liquid measuring cup. This will determine how much sugar you need. Return the puree and an equal amount of sugar, by volume (if you have one cup of puree, you need one cup of sugar) to your saucepot and stir well to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer over low heat until it turns a deep red. This can take as long as two hours. Just be patient and remember to stir occasionally. At this point the membrillo will have a jam-like consistency.

Preheat your oven to 150°F and line a 13x9 inch baking pan with wax paper, or arrange your clean canning jars on a baking sheet. Pour in your quince mixture and place in the oven for about an hour to dehydrate the membrillo. It may take longer if your jars are on the deeper side. When done, the membrillo will feel firm to the touch and look solid.

At this point, you can either let it cool and store in the refrigerator, or can using a boiling water bath or pressure canner.

Please note, if canning please err on the side of caution. Quince is an acidic fruit so the membrillo is not a high risk canning item, but please... work clean and follow proper canning procedures. I kept my jars in a boiling water bath for a full 15 minutes, since that is the USDA recommended time for un-sanitized jars.

I strongly recommend following all canning instructions found in the USDA's Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving. A link to the book can be found below.

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