Recipe: membrillo (quince paste)
It’s so good to be home after a week of driving around Southwest Colorado and shooting fall colors alone. I don’t mind being alone, but it gets mentally exhausting because I’m all up in my head with myself from before sunrise to well after sundown assessing weather, light, topography, and of course the aspens. After a couple of days traveling backroads I noticed a lot of drivers in their trucks with their dogs. Colorado is a dog-lovin’ state, to be sure. It made me miss Kaweah and it almost made me wish that she were along for my trip. I say almost because Kaweah is a very annoying (read: bad) car companion. She associates car rides with hikes. She loves hikes. She gets so excited she just cries the whole time. Sometimes for several hours on end. Kaweah becomes a giant stress ball so we try to avoid subjecting her to that. I guess in some ways we are trying to avoid subjecting ourselves to it too. There’s something to be said for shooting the fall colors in peace.
in crested butte
off ohio pass road
[See the whole set from Crested Butte on my photo blog.]
When reports posted winter weather advisories for the mountains, I debated if it might be wise for me to wrap up the shoot in Crested Butte and hightail it back home before the storm arrived. Instead, I took that window and drove south to the San Juans and I’m glad I did. Places with big sky, big mountains, big weather, big swaths of pine and aspen – they take my breath away. There were times when the visibility went to pea soup, but the weather is so dynamic that you could count on it changing from hour to hour if not minute to minute.
the scrub was also in full color
from the dallas divide
sunset on the sneffels range
rising clouds from fresh snowfall
[You can view the rest of the set here.]
We had five inches of snow on our deck Saturday. A-basin and Loveland have begun their race to make snow with a jump start from the cold snap. And Wolf Creek opened this weekend with 44 inches of snow from the storm! But it’s not winter. The snow has melted (mostly) from our deck and the days ahead will be sunny and warm. That’s autumn for ya. I’m happy to get as much of it as I can including in the edible form. Our local Whole Foods is carrying quince now, and despite the fact that it costs an arm and a leg to buy it here in Colorado, I couldn’t resist. I know of people from various parts of the U.S. who have had quince trees… and never once knew what to do with the fruits. Seriously? That makes for sad pandas everywhere.
related to the apple and pear, but you can’t eat quince raw
cut, cored, cubed
I first tasted quince paste – membrillo – in Argentina over a decade ago. Becky and I were in the field on a GPS campaign and dropped by to visit with a farming family she knew from the previous field season. They were warm and friendly, inviting us in to join them for snacks and a game of World Cup Soccer: Argentina vs. England. Slices of a mild, soft cheese were paired with slices of the deep rose-colored quince paste. Floral, fruity, and sweet bouncing off the creamy, salty cheese. Because I didn’t know a lick of Spanish, I learned to speak the way Argentinians speak. I didn’t say mem-BREE-yo, I said mem-BREE-zho. Lots of je je je sounds. It’s so beautiful. By the way, Argentina won that game which made for a country full of happy people.
slice lemon rind
simmer in a pot with lemon peel, vanilla bean, and water
Magical things happen when you cook quince to make membrillo. First off, you have to cook quince as most are not edible raw. The fruit is naturally high in pectin which lends itself perfectly to making jams and jellies. The color goes from pale yellow to orange-pink to deep rose. Oh, and the fragrance gets stronger as it cooks. One of the recipes I referenced describes it as smelling like mulled cider. Just lovely.
tender quince pieces
Making membrillo isn’t hard, it’s just time-consuming and requires some babysitting. You can peel the quince if you like, but I decided to leave the skins on. It saved me some time and you can’t detect them in the final product. I boiled the chunks of quince in a large pot of water with lemon peel and a vanilla bean. They’re ready when they are soft, at which point you drain them, remove the vanilla bean, and purée everything in a food processor or run it through a food mill.
stir in equal amounts of sugar
add lemon juice
Measure out the volume of your quince purée (I had 4 1/2 cups) and then measure out an equal amount of sugar. Pour those back into pot and stir in some lemon juice. I just used the juice of the whole lemon because I wanted more tang to it if possible. And then you set it over medium to medium-low heat and stir.
at first, it looks like it isn’t doing a thing
but eventually it will darken and deepen in color
Keep stirring occasionally to keep the quince from burning. It will thicken as the color changes. It should take about an hour to 2 hours to get to the right consistency. I’d say you want it to be thick, but not so stiff that you can’t pour it. That’s what I did, because I thought it had to be a deep rose color, so it was a bit of pain getting it into the baking pan.
this might be a little too thick
line a pan with parchment paper and butter it well
Let the quince settle into the pan and smooth the top. I actually debated baking mine in a loaf pan because I like taller slices, but whatever. The purpose of baking is not to cook the membrillo so much as to help dry it out for an hour, because you’re essentially in as low an oven temperature as you can get. One recipe said 125°F (mine doesn’t go that low) and another said 200°F with the fan on or the oven door ajar. I set mine on 170°F and called it good.
smooth out the top of the membrillo
remove from oven and let cool
I’m pretty sure that my membrillo is slightly harder than it should be. Next time, I’ll not cook the hell out of it and try the loaf pan, but this one still turned out well with a beautiful flavor. We paired it with some Manchego cheese and an Argentine Malbec one afternoon. The membrillo also makes for wonderful handmade gifts, if you can stand to part with it.
a lovely nibble of membrillo with manchego
Membrillo (Quince Paste)
from Simply Recipes and Always Order Dessert
4 lbs. quince, washed well (about 5 medium quince for me)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 lemon, peel of (just the yellow, not the white pith)
lemon juice (this will depend on how much quince purée you wind up producing)
4-5 cups sugar (this also depends on the amount of quince purée)
Cut and core your quince. You can peel them if you want, but Alejandra said she leaves the peel on and in the final product. (Worked great for me.) Place the quince, vanilla bean, and lemon peel in a large saucepan. Fill with enough water so that it covers the fruit by an inch. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let everything cook/simmer until the quince are fork-tender (took me about 45 minutes). Strain the quince, discarding the water and the vanilla bean (but keep the lemon peel). Purée the quince and lemon peel in a food processor or press through a food mill until smooth. Measure the amount of purée you have and pour it into the saucepan. Now measure out the same amount of sugar as the purée (I had 4.5 cups of purée, so I added 4.5 cups of sugar) and pour that into the saucepan, stirring together. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice for each cup of purée (okay, I added 1 tablespoon for each cup because I really like lemon). Heat the purée over medium heat then reduce to medium-low, stirring frequently on a simmer to avoid burning the quince. The purée should go from golden to a dark orange-pink color over the course of an hour or more and it should thicken considerably. (I think I cooked mine a little too long, hoping to get an even deeper color.) Remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to a low setting (Elise says 125°F, Alejandra says 200°F with fan on or door cracked ajar, my oven goes as low as 170°F). Prepare an 8×8-inch baking dish, lining it with parchment (NOT wax paper) and buttering it generously. Pour the quince into the pan and smooth it out. [Note: If you cook yours on the stove for a long time like I did, it's a lot harder to spread the paste out in the pan.] Bake the quince paste for about an hour to help it dry out, then remove from the oven, peel off the parchment, and cool. You can wrap the membrillo in plastic and/or foil and refrigerate for up to a year. Makes quite a bit (I’m not even sure how to quantify it).