Membrillo y Queso

Original: Quince Paste

Take a ratl of quince, cleaned of its seeds and cut into small pieces. Pound it well until it is like brains. Cook it with three ratls of honey, cleaned of its foam, until it takes the form of a paste.

Source: An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century, trans. Charles Perry

Original (2): To make quince marmalade

Take quinces and peel them, then cut in quarters and take out the eye, and the seeds, then cook them in good red wine and then strain through a strainer: then take honey and boil it for a long time and skim it, then put your quinces in it and stir thoroughly, and keep boiling until the honey is reduced by half; then throw in powdered hippocras, and stir till cold, then divide into portions and keep it.

Source: Le Ménagier de Paris (c. 1393)

Redaction

6 quinces
4 cups honey
Juice of 1 lemon mixed with 1 cup water
1 750ml bottle of red wine
¼ t ground nutmeg
3/8 t ground cinnamon
½ T. ground ginger
Additional water as needed

  1. Core and chop quinces and toss them in a large saucepan or Dutch oven with the acidulated (lemoned) water.
  2. Add wine and additional water to just cover the fruit.
  3. Simmer until fruit is very soft, at least one hour.
  4. Pass fruit through a food mill to puree, retaining all juices.
  5. Return fruit and juices to pan, add honey and spices.
  6. Simmer on low heat until most of the water has evaporated, then pour into long, flat pans to cool. Sterilized jars may be used for long term storage.

Hint: As the mixture nears completion, remove a small spoonful, spread on a plate and refrigerate briefly. If the paste is done the pectin will set the mixture. The final consistency should be akin to a firm jam.

Notes and Choices

Quince pastes are common in Spanish, French and English cookbooks from the 13th – 18th century. Early experiments with the recipe from the 13th century Andalusian cookbook yielded either undercooked fruit or scorched honey; results using a step in which the fruit is boiled and pureed (e.g. the French recipe above) were much more pleasing! We liked the complexity imparted by the wine in the French version and are serving a version with merlot today, but results omitting it are also tasty! We added the lemon to lend some tartness to the mixture and prevent the fruit from browning prematurely. Proportions of the spices come from the recipe for hippocras also found in Le Ménagier de Paris. Quince paste was commonly eaten on cheese or bread, and many hard and soft cheeses are referenced in Medieval Spanish texts and cookbooks. At the Spanish Feast, we presented it with a Spanish Manchego aged 9 months.

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