This is an English version of Membrillo recipe that I promised during our recent trip to one nice lady in Oregon.
It just so happened that last year I had a huge harvest on all the fruit trees that were planted in our garden. Even very small quince tree, planted more for its beauty, produced a lot of fruit.
My relationship with the quinces was never simple. No one in our family liked quince jam that so many people were crazy about. A year before last I started drying quinces in just like apples and it was well accepted by the family. However, drying as many quinces as this little tree managed to produce last year was very challenging even with the help of the dehydrator.
After scanning the Internet, I found a quince dish that I appealed to me. It was Spanish quince marmalade, aka Membrillo. Membrillo attracted me by its beauty, the opportunity to use quinces, and even more so by the fact that it it was claimed that it went well with strongly tasting cheeses that we love so much.
The recipe that is given here is the result of an Internet compilation, as well as of my own hard-earned experience gained from my attempts in making Membrillo.
The recipe is relatively simple (chop-boil-more boil-dry) but somewhat tedious to prepare.
Quinces should be thoroughly washed removing the fuzz, cut into quarters, de-cored and cut into small cubes. Do not remove the peel because it has a lot of pectin that helps Membrillo to set.
Put cut quinces into a large pan and add water just to cover. Bring to a boil and boil on low heat for about 40 minutes or until quinces are very soft. Transfer cooked quinces into a colander and drain as much liquid as possible. The less liquid you have left, the less time it will take you to boil the Membrillo to needed thickness.
Push cooked quinces through the Food Mill or process it in a Food Processor. Weigh the quinces and put it in a pot or a pan, where you will be boiling it. Add the sugar in the proportions of 1:1 (1 lb of sugar to each 1 lb of quinces puree) or to 4:3 (3/4lb of sugar for each 1 lb of quinces puree). Unfortunately, less sugar simply would not do it; trust me, I tried. During my first attempt I decided to go with significantly less sugar. It took me almost forever to boil down to right consistency and the result was far from ideal. I was never able to reach deep red color. There are some recommendations to add a little bit of a lemon juice that suppose to speed up the thickening process. I am planning to try it this year.
Bring quince puree to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Next step in all internet recipes is to boil it down for an hour to one and a half hour to thicken it and get a beautiful red color. I probably had too much liquid left and not enough sugar (I used 3:4 ratio of sugar to quinces puree) but it took me 3 to 4 hours of boiling to get the right color and consistency. Moreover, the last couple of hours were particularly "entertaining" – quinces puree was trying its best to spit hot and sticky brew into your face. To avoid splashes, I boiled it under the mesh cover taking it off occasionally to stir the puree.
When quinces became thick and of a nice reddish color, I turned the heat off and cooled it down, stirring occasionally, until it was slightly above room temperature. Then I put the parchment into a shallow form or a tray (I used a low baking dish), greased it with a little bit of oil and poured quince puree onto the parchment. I leveled the surface with a knife. The thickness of the layer of the quince puree should not be too high, otherwise it will take forever to dry. I had a thickness of about 3 cm (just slightly over an inch), but I think that ¾ inch would be better.
As an experiment, just before pouring in onto the tray, I mixed part of the puree with nuts. I used coarsely chopped pecans but I am positive that walnuts or almond would be just as good. Ironically, this non-traditional version of Membrillo was gone first; everybody just loved it.
And lastly, you start long and tedious process of drying Membrillo at low temperature. I dried it in the oven at the lowest temperature setting I could get - 170F but based on internet recommendations even lower temperature could be used. It took me two to three days to dry the Membrillo to the right level. I put trays into the oven at 170F, and held it there for 2-3 hours. Then I turned off the oven, opened it slightly and left the Membrillo there for several hours. I repeated the process several times, until the marmalade become relatively hard and non-sticky to the touch. I need to mention that nuts version remained slightly sticky and not quite as beautiful even after prolonged drying. But it was so very tasty!
Next, I sliced ready Membrillo into small rectangular blocks, wrapped them in parchment and kept in the fruit area of the refrigerator. When ready to serve, cut the Membrillo into thin slices. It turned out very delicious and beautiful even on its own, but with a strong cheese it is simply a dream.
Of cause, it takes time and effort to prepare but it is totally worth it since you use very little of it at the time so it lasts for a very long time.
This how it all started:
Chopped quinces during initial boiling:
Early stage of boiling quince puree:
Red and pretty after long cooking:
Membrillo is ready to be cut and packed for storage:
Membrillo version with chopped pecan nuts: