The Sunday Project: Dulce de Membrillo (Quince Paste)
with Matthew Altizer
The recipe for quince paste is an ancient one; it first appeared in the Roman cookbook Apicius that’s thought to have been compiled in the late 4th century AD.
Over the ages, this delicious sweet paste has gained popularity all over Europe. It is traditionally from Spain, Italy and Portugal, where it’s called marmelada – where the English word marmalade originated. I’ve been buying quince paste for years and serving it with manchego cheese, a traditional Spanish pairing, but I thought about making it at home, and what else I could do with it. After tasting some homemade quince paste, I made it and it’s really easy to make, but you’ll need to set aside a swath of time. This recipe makes a rather large batch, but since it calls for an equal amount of quince goo and sugar, you can make as much or as little as you like. Find quinces at the farmers’ markets, Italian stores, grocery stores.
Dulce de Membrillo
5 lbs. quinces
sugar and honey
juice of 1 lemon
First, rub the fuzz off the quinces with a tea towel. Cut the stems and little hairy bottoms off the quinces and then quarter them. It’s important to keep the seeds and skin of the quinces because they contain a lot of pectin, which helps the quince paste thicken and set.
Place the quartered quinces in a large heavy-bottomed pot and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook the quinces, stirring occasionally, until they’re very soft, almost falling apart, about an hour or two.
Use a potato masher or a hand blender to purée the quince, then force it through a fine-meshed sieve into a measuring cup. Measure the quince purée and measure an equal amount of sugar or honey or both. If I get 6 cups of quince purée I’ll add 4 cups of sugar and 2 cups of honey, but you can portion them however you like.
Wash the pot and add the quince, sugar, honey and lemon juice. Place over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently. It will take 2 to 3 hours to reduce the quince down enough for it to set. You will know the paste is ready when the colour changes to a deep rose and a clear path is left on the bottom of the pan when you stir it.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush it with grapeseed oil. Pour the quince paste onto the baking sheet and spread it out evenly. Leave the pan on the counter overnight to set and then cut into rectangles. Wrap each rectangle with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.
Here are tasty uses for quince paste. But you can just eat it with cheese, too, of course!
Beet Greens with Quince and Mustard
My chef friend JP doesn’t like beet greens, not even a little bit, but he was always given the task of cooking them when there were extra greens that needed to be used up. He came up with the combination of sweet onions and quince, a bit of sharp Dijon mustard and a splash of heavy cream. People went crazy for this side dish, me included.
Chop an onion up as finely as you can and sauté it in butter until super tender, about 30 minutes, then turn the heat up and let the onion caramelize. Meanwhile, tear the stems from the beet greens and blanch the greens in a large pot of salted water until tender. Strain and squeeze out any extra moisture, chop them up and squeeze them once more, making sure there isn’t any extra liquid remaining. Stir the beet greens into the onions along with a spoonful of quince paste, some Dijon mustard and a splash of heavy cream. Let the mixture cook for a few minutes to reduce the cream slightly, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve as a side to almost any roasted or grilled protein.
This aioli is lighter and fruiter than traditional ones, it goes great with almost any pork dish and is beautiful as a dip for crispy calamari.
Crush a garlic clove with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a food proces- sor and add 1/2 cup of quince paste. Blend the garlic and quince paste together and then slowly drizzle 1/3 cup each of extra-virgin olive oil and grapeseed oil into the mixture, making sure that it doesn’t separate. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Read article in digital issue of City Palate.