I have had a bumper year for quince in 2011 and have decided to make various preserves and desserts with my amazing fruity haul ~ I shall be featuring them over the next few days. The first preserve I decided to make was a batch of Quince Cheese, called Membrillo in Spain and a firm favourite with me and my family. It always makes an appearance on my Christmas cheeseboard and by the time the New Year has started, it has all been devoured! Quince Cheese is not a cheese at all, but is closely related to jams and jellies, but with a firmer texture and is usually stored and served moulded, then cut into slices as an accompaniment to cheese and cold meats.
- Wash the quince thoroughly and, if necessary, rub off any furry down from their skins. Chop them without peeling or coring them into medium-sized chunks and put in a large saucepan. Be very careful as they are very hard to cut. Add the lemon juice and enough cold water to just cover them - about 1.5 litres. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 2 to 3 hours or until very soft and a dusky, rosy colour. If necessary, add more water while cooking to ensure the quince cook evenly and don't catch on the bottom of the pan.
- Once very soft, push the mixture through a fine nylon sieve with a ladle. This takes time but rids the quince of any remaining debris. Measure the resulting purÃ©e and allow 450g granulated sugar for every 500ml purÃ©ed quince. (For every 1 pint of purÃ©e you need 1 lb sugar.)
- Prepare some suitable jars, moulds or containers. You can use plastic food boxes: wash in a dishwasher and leave to dry. Alternatively, use Kilner jars, jelly moulds, small glass yoghurt pots or small jam jars: wash in hot, soapy water and leave to dry in a cool oven. Whatever you choose, make sure it will be easy to cut or turn out the quince cheese.
- Put the quince purÃ©e and sugar in a large saucepan over a low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then bring up to the boil and cook, stirring all the time, until the mix is so thick that the spoon leaves a clean line when drawn across the bottom of the pan. This will take about 30 minutes to one hour ~ it is a moveable feast! As the purÃ©e thickens it will spit violently, so protect your arms and watch your eyes too.
- Lightly oil the sterilised containers and fill them with the piping-hot quince cheese. Seal once cold. Store for up to a year. This is delicious with cheeses and charcuterie but can also be cut into squares, dusted with sugar and served as a sweetmeat.