Turkey might be the leading country in producing quinces, but in northern Spain we are anything but short of these quintessentially autumn fruits.
The quince tree is native to the southwest Asia region and it is believed that the word marmalade originally refers to quince jam (from Portuguese marmelo, which means quince).
Quinces are one of my favourite fruits, so delicate and special, only apt for those who try hard enough as it is almost inedible –too hard and too sour- when raw. However, there was a time in my childhood when I hated quinces for it meant hours spent by a casserole, just stirring. My mum, dad and I would take turns. Stirring boiling quinces is a dangerous affair (the bubbles might burn so try to avoid any contact by all means). And I didn’t even like quince paste back then!
Nevertheless, at some point in my childhood that changed and every time I passed by my mum’s quince trees I could almost smell the soft, aromatic membrillo (quince paste) that we make every year at the beginning of the autumn, when her trees are laden with fruits.
Luckily some years ago my mum upgraded her recipe to a simpler one and the hours of stirring have been substituted by blending. Sometimes she is still nostalgic of her previous method and does it the long way. I must admit I am don't.
Membrillo (Quince Paste)
Nothing reflects better the flavour of autumn in Asturias than membrillo paired with some of our excellent blue cheeses, maybe Cabrales or Gamonéu. I love it on spelt or rye sourdough bread.
Yield: two rectangular pieces
1kg quinces cored
Juice of one lemon
Two sealable containers of a shape of your choice
Wash the quinces, cut out the cores with a sharp knife and roughly chopped them in small chunks. Put them in a large pan together with the sugar and the lemon juice, cover and let macerate for 24 hours.
The next day the sugar should have dissolved and quinces should be covered in an aromatic lemony syrup. Bring to the boil in a medium heat and then simmer for about 45 minutes over a low heat or until the quinces are tender. The paste should have a dark red, brownish colour. Blend and transfer the paste into a sealable container. Leave it to cool and then store in a sealable container for up to a year*. Once opened store in the fridge.
(*) Anything with so much sugar will keep a year or forever!