A Wince at Quince
I love it when co-workers bring in the extra bounty from their gardens to share. I have brought in extras from my garden too. Be it fruit or vegetables, there is nothing quite as satisfying as eating home grown (free) produce. A week and a half ago I had never, to my knowledge, even held a quince in my hand. I had seen them before and they looked a little furry and questionable. While visiting a friend, with a quince tree in her front yard, I was offered a bag of (free) quince. She had them displayed in a large bowl and they looked pretty. They looked like Fall. She said they were like an apple and pear but you couldn’t eat them raw. They needed to be cooked. And they needed sugar and could be made into jam. My eyes kind of narrowed into a wince. Hmmmm.….added sugar? But I am adventurous and decided I would google quince and see what the universe had to say about them. I saw recipes for poached quince, quince jams, quince cobbler and tarts. Then, I saw it. A recipe for Dulce de Membrillo. Quince Cheese. I was intrigued. How could you make cheese from fruit? I learned that it is a jelly of sorts that is eaten with Manchego cheese in Spain. Wait! What? Back up! Did I hear.…..Manchego cheese? I rarely eat dairy of any sort. Manchego is one of the few things dairy that I will make the exception for. So I started looking at the selection of recipes. They all seemed plain with mostly just quince, sugar and water as the ingredients. It seemed like a recipe for bland apple sauce. So I thought I would spice it up and add a little ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon peel and lemon juice to it. I went out to pick a lemon but my tree is between crops. I only had green lemons. Even the neighbors tree, which regularly dumps over ripe lemons into my yard, only had green lemons. While walking back across the yard from the neighbors’ tree, I passed my kaffir lime tree which lives in a pot. I have kaffir limes for the first time this year and hadn’t figured out what I would do with them. I picked one and decided to experiment.
Dulce de Membrillo Thai Style (Quince Paste)
- 4 large quince
- 1 vanilla bean pod, split
- ½ inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into rounds
- 3 strips of kaffir lime zest, green part only
- 2 tsp. kaffir lime juice
- 1 1-inch piece if cinnamon stick
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup honey
Wash and peel the quince. Cut into quarters and remove the core and seeds with a sharp knife. Save a couple teaspoons of the quince seeds. Slice the quince and place into a large saucepan filled halfway with water. Add more water if needed to cover all the quince slices. Add vanilla bean pod, ginger, kaffir lime zest and cinnamon stick. Place the quince seeds onto a 6-inch square piece of cheesecloth and tie with cooking string.* Place into the saucepan and bring all to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the quince is tender (about 40 minutes).
Remove the vanilla bean pod and pieces of ginger. Drain the water and pour fruit into a food processor or blender. A stick blender can be used to blend right in the pan. Return to pan, if needed. Over medium low heat, bring the quince mixture back to a simmer. Add kaffir lime juice, sugar and honey and stir until sugar has dissolved. Reduce to low and cook for 1 hour stirring occasionally. The quince will darken the longer it is cooked and will be a dark orange color. Transfer to an oiled baking dish and chill until firm. Invert onto a platter and slice to serve. Serve with Manchego or other hard aged cheese.
*Quince seeds have pectin around them and will help the membrillo set.