Quince is an odd old fruit. Looking not quite like a pear or an apple, hard as a rock and almost inedible in its raw form, you would think it would sit in the 'pointless foods of the world' basket. But cook it like a jam and the fruit is transformed into a delicious paste/jelly that is simply sensational with good cheese, cold meats or a baste for a leg of lamb or even a fruity addition to a stock or gravy.
The Spanish have been using this technique since day one for their 'membrillo' and they traditionally serve it with their lovely sheep's cheese manchego. Cooked into a solid form like my version it becomes a quince 'cheese' and can just be sliced into chunks and served with the cheese board. Floral and sweet, it is a surprising addition and one that blows away most chutneys that usually make the cheese board.
It can be tampered with, and an addition of chilli can be a welcome to the sweetness of the quince cheese, or add the traditional spices of Christmas such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. A blob on top of some rice pudding is classy.
If you still aren't convinced, think of our traditional apple jelly and add a floral punch and a sticky, chewy almost fruit gum type chewiness and you have the quince cheese. Delicious.
Quince Cheese (Membrillo)
Makes 2 large wedges
2 large quinces
Juice of 1 lemon
Optional spices such as a dried chilli, cinnamon stick, cloves and a little nutmeg
1 - Cut the quince into large chunks and take out the seeds. Leave the skin intact and add to a large pan with the lemon juice. If adding spices, put them in now. Cover with just enough water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the fruit is soft.
2 - Over a bowl, pour the fruit into a sieve and using the back of a spoon, push the fruit through until all you have is the pulp left in the bowl. Measure out the pulp in a measuring jug then add the same quantity sugar.
3 - Pour back into the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for anything between 1-2 hours, stirring regularly to prevent burning and sticking. The 'jam' will turn a deep orange colour and it is ready when you run a wooden spoon down the bottom of the pan and it leaves a clean line.
4 - Pour the 'jam' into lightly oiled moulds and leave to set. It can eaten immediately once cooled or it will keep covered in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. To serve, simply tip out onto a cheese board and slice into chunks.
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