The Cottage Smallholder

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Quince jelly and other quince recipes revisited

quinces on plateI decided last week to turn some of the quinces from Anna’s garden into something delicious. I rubbed off the fluff, cut them into chunks and covered them with water and the zest of a lemon. They were simmering on the gentlest setting (lid on) for about four hours until they softened and the juice took on that deep pink hue.

I strained the juice through a jelly bag overnight and popped both the juice and the strained flesh into the fridge. I was delighted to discover that both keep happily in the fridge for a couple of weeks. 800g of quinces and 850ml (1.5 pints) of water made 600ml of thickish juice that I am going to dilute a bit before venturing to make our delicious jelly. The fruit pulp will be seived and turned into quince cheese or Membrillo.

However, neither the quinces nor the juice have quite the same rich colour of a photograph of poached quinces that I saw last year. Towards the end of 2006 I read two wonderful posts about quinces written by Melissa from The Traveller’s Lunchbox. The first is an exquisite reminiscence of her first taste of membrillo and a good recipe. The second is a lazy way to make poached quinces and a vibrant red quince cordial. The photo on this post has stuck in my mind ever since.

Lying awake last night, I remembered Melissa’s posts and recipes. Although the laptop was propped beside the bed and D was sleeping soundly beside me, I didn’t like to fire it up just a foot away from his pillow. It has inbuilt speakers and is quite a vociferous machine.

So I crept downstairs and leafed through our abridged Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management that we keep in the loo. She suggests a long cooking time, at least 3 hours, and the addition of cochineal (if desperate). I am not that desperate.

Surely one could make Membrillo out of the quinces in both recipes and jelly out of the quince infused water. You would need to leave out the sugar during the baking stage of the poached quince (recpe 2) and probably reduce the liquid a bit after the baking stage.

What do you think?

Also, on the subject of quinces, I found this gorgeous site today with some ancient recipes for making quince paste and setting it in beautiful moulds. These would make wonderful Christmas presents. We have some old glass bowls that belonged to my grandmother that have a star pattern cut into the base. They would make a good mould if the paste was not too hot.

Update. We ow have our own recipe for membrillo here.

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  1. Good luck with the Jelly and the Membrillo!!!

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi ame,

    What a shame to have had such an adverse reaction to membrillo.

    I love it, Danny didn’t like his taste of a commercially produced one (very sweet and a bit rubbery). I am hoping to win him over with some homemade membrillo.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi KJ,

    Great that the quince jelly worked for you. Of course I’ll read your post when the time comes.

    Thanks for the tips and recipe from Stephanie Alexander, much appreciated. Glad that you think that my proposition could work.

    Hi Mildred,

    Oh I envy you a day in the kitchen with 5lbs of quinces!

    Thanks so much for detailing your timings and results with amounts, this is very useful information. Ideally, it needs to set for a few days before slicing and eating. I™ve no idea if the flavour improves with keeping. Perhaps someone out there knows.

    Hi Joanna,

    I was thinking of using the Magimix to thickly slice the quinces for membrillo. Or try baking them as in the second recipe. I was worried that I might break the Magimix. But if you gated quinces then slicing should be fine!

    I hadn’t noticed the similarity to Tenniel’s Red Queen until you pointed it out. Definitely Jam tomorrow for me! Danny adored it when I showed him the illustration in the book.

    Hi Celia,

    I agree that the similarity to Red Queen is spot on.

    The pot roast pheasant dish is good. Quite rich. Perfect for a celebration meal.

  4. i love the idea of dulce de membrillo and the weblink made it sound delicious but i haven’t been able to even smell it since my ‘Abuela’ made me eat it when i was about 7 and i hated it! Now when i’m in Spain and anyone suggests it it just makes me gag! so badly in fact i can’t let my children try it – or my OH and i’m sure he’d like it

    in fact my face is all screwed up now because you’ve actually made me think about the taste of it. i’m sure it’s lovely really but maybe my grandmother was just a really bad membrillo maker…. or maybe it wasn’t meant for 7 year olds??

  5. Mildred

    sorry, they took 2 hours of cooking AFTER the sugar was in, PLUS a couple of hours before to make the pulp! I didn’t want to muddle anyone!

  6. Mildred

    An update on the quince cheese.
    5 lbs of fruit made 4lbs when peeled. I chopped it all up, including the cores as the pulp goes through a sieve anyway. I didn’t include the cores with the last lot, so I can compare them and see if has made any difference.
    It took a while to cook, maybe 2 hours, and has made just over 2.5 lbs of deep red cheese. I put it into 8 small 6oz jars as it makes a nice gift (if we can bear to part with any that is).
    There’s a bit in a cup to try later!
    I didn’t use the jelly moulds as they are aluminium – not sure if it would taint the cheese.
    I wonder if it improves with keeping, or is it ok to eat immediately . . .
    Thanks again for your inspiration 🙂

  7. “the thin one who looks like the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland” 🙂
    What a spot-on description, I knew he reminded me of something! Who cares what John Thingy-Whatsit says, we’re going to try your lovely pot-roast next time we cook pheasant – bet it tastes fantastic.

  8. Lovely quince recipes … Last week when I made some quince liqueur, I grated the quinces in the Magimix, and it took seconds, rather to my surprise. I have never made membrillo, but that’s the next plan, and I’m going to Magimix the fruit first, to make the process easier. An early childhood memory is of spending the whole afternoon cutting rock hard quince into tiny cubes with my grandmother, to make her magical jam … I think my knives must be sharper than hers were!


    PS enjoyed seeing you on Britain’s Best Dish, but how on earth did you stick that unbelievably rude man, the thin one who looks like the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland??

  9. Mildred

    Hi Fi, hurry and get better!
    Those quinces in the pic at the top are beautiful! And the web link, what a wonderful source.
    This really IS my favourite fruit now.
    After a pot of fortifying coffee I am going to chop up 5lbs of quinces, it will all go into making Membrillo / cheese!
    I wish I had some kind of moulds – oh! I have some mini jelly moulds, I may try one of those.

  10. Oh this is just too weird. I made quince jelly on the weekend, after being inspired by your earlier post on this subject. Against all expectation it turned out brilliantly. I am going to blog about it shortly. I hope you will come see.

    As for your question, I know next to nothing about quinces, but Stephanie Alexander in the Cooks Companion has a multi step process for using quinces.

    She puts the quinces in a muslin bag and then poaches them in light sugar syrup. The quinces can then be used to make quince paste (which I assume is membrillo). And the quince syrup can be used to make quince custard (which sounds delicious), quince jelly or a thick glaze for fruit tarts.

    So yeah, I think your idea totally could work.

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