Quince Cheese (Membrillo)

1 Oct

It is October, the quince trees are laden and it is time to make Membrillo, the famous Spanish sweet meat. A thick paste of sieved quince and sugar boiled down, poured into moulds and set in blocks. A favourite treat for winter pantry, delicious served with cheese such as Manchego and cured hams.

Makes about 1.5Kg (4lb)
*1Kg (2lb) ripe quinces
*juice of half a lemon
*a little water
*600-800g sugar (approx)

Wash and chop the quinces.  Place in a large pan with the lemon juice and just enough water to cover the fruit, simmer uncovered until the fruit is very soft. Push the quince through a metal sieve or vegetable mouli to get a smooth pulp. Weigh the pulp and put it back into a clean pan with the sugar. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cook gently until the paste is thick. You will need to keep a constant eye on it and stir regularly to prevent catching on the bottom. The paste is ready to pour into moulds when it is thick. My test for being ready, for all cheeses, is when a spoon is drawn through the mixture and it takes a few seconds for the paste to fall back into the cleared line of the spoon – a parting of the seas moment you could say. Pour into lightly oiled moulds that are still warm from being sterilized, cover the top lightly with a piece of grease proof paper, and leave overnight to set. Once set wrap or cover tightly with a lid or cling film/tin foil. You are supposed to store membrillo for 3 months before using but I have never found this necessary. Turn the cheese out and serve in slices with sweet or savoury dishes. Membrillo will keep 2 years or more in the fridge in a covered container.

Note most membrillo recipes call for an equal weight of sugar to fruit pulp but I find that too sweet and prefer to add less sugar. At a ratio of 60% sugar non of the preserving qualities are lost.
Variation for a more pronounced citrus flavour simmer the quince with lemon or orange peel before sieving.
TIP Quince are very dense so I use a food processor to whizz them into small pieces because it saves on cooking time.

Originally posted onmas du diable  31/10/2007
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