Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dulce de membrillo

Let's talk about Quince. Have you ever heard of quinces? They're kind of like pears, but you can't eat them raw. Their taste is a lot softer than the juicy pear, but they remain rock-hard even when they're rotting to death. Lastly, they're the mother of all marmelades!


No really, marmelade means 'quince preparation' in Portuguese. It is in countries like Portugal, Spain, South France and Italy that quince is still eaten as Dulce de membrillo. In English this translates to Quince cheese, which is a lot less interesting. Then again, it's cheese made out of fruit. I didn't actually know that was possible either... It's still quite cool right?

Quince jam or cheese goes back a long way. Somewhere along the way the ancient Romans already had this. Whatever they used it for is long lost information, but nowadays it's eaten with cheese (for dessert, lunch or breakfast), as topping for bread and sandwiches, as snack or candy or to stuff pastries. On the pictures the dulce the membrillo is paired with goat's cheese and crackers. Yum!



Dulce de membrillo / Quince cheese
1 brownie tin - Handboek inmaken

1,3 kilos quinces (4-5 pieces)
600-800 grams sugar

1. Wash the quinces and chop them into chunks. You don't need to remove the core.
2. Put the quince chunks into a large pan and add enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil and leave to simmer with the lid on the pan for about 45-60 minutes until the quinces have become very soft.
3. Drain the water. Press the quinces through a sieve and measure the purree. Weigh 400 grams sugar per 600ml purree. I ended up using 600 grams sugar (900ml purree).
4. Put the quince purree with the sugar into the pan and bring to a simmer. Leave to simmer, without the lid, for about 45-60 minutes to thicken. Stir frequently, especially the last 10-20 minutes the 'cheese' will very likely caramelize or burn at the sides.*
5. Pour the quince cheese in a brownie tin and leave for 1-3 days to dry (cover with a cloth not foil!). You can also spread it out thinly on a baking sheet to make fruit leather. The thinner you make the cheese, the less time it will need to dry.

* If you are really bad at waiting, or if you don't want the actual 'cheese', you can stop at 30 minutes and put the jam in sterilized jars.

The recipe is easy like hell. It just takes a lot of time, some experience with jams perhaps and your constant attention. Especially the last one is hard for me. So I did totally burn the sides of pan. Luckily you can just scrape it off, eat the caramelized jam (quite nice!) and keep stirring. Oh yes, and don't forget the drying. You'll have to leave the dulce de membrillo for at least a day to dry, but it get's a lot better after three days. There is so much sugar in this, you do really not have to worry about it going bad. But if you really don't like the idea, you can put the 'jam' in jars after step 4 and keep them in a cool place for 3 months to thicken. Yes, I don't have the patience for that either...


Isn't the colour amazing? Who would've thought those pale white pear-shaped fruits would turn this bright orange-red?

Oh yes, dulce de membrillo is apparently also very popular in Brazil, America, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Israel. And under a different name in Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, France and even as far as Pakistan. You know it's really hard to write something on traditional food when it's traditional all over the world? Especially when it's traditional for different occasions. For instance, the French eat it during Christmas as part of the 'Thirteen desserts'. Whereas you can find it all year long in Spain.

I'll stop there before I start trying to write every single tradition down. I hope you enjoyed my rant on the history of marmelade and I hope you have a great day!

6 comments:

  1. great quince post! we mostly bake them!

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    1. To be really honest with you, I hadn't even thought of that. It's hard to find quinces around here, so no one really has a clue what to do with them :P I should try this when I see them again!

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  2. I never have heard of quince, thanks for introducing me!

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    1. Haha, you're welcome! I can't say it's really common around here either though ;) But it's definitely worth buying once you bump into it somewhere!

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  3. I love this!! I discovered quince a few years ago so I always make sure to buy them a few times when they're in season. However, I usually just put them in pies or tarts--I am going to have to try this recipe for sure!

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    1. I haven't gotten a chance to try them in pies or tarts yet, but it sounds like it would totally work. All I can say is that quince cheese with actual cheese is amazing. Tell me what you think of it once you get around to trying ;)

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