Saturday, 23 October 2010

Membrillo On My Mind

Lorne Gray of Northamptonshire foody blog Graze & Guzzle has recently put into words something that's been on my mind for some time. When exactly am I going to pinch some of our neighbours rapidly ripening Quince fruits.... Ok, that's not exactly what Lorne said, but his recent post on Membrillo certainly helped focus my mind on the our chronic 'Lack of Quince' situation.

It's a 'lack' that's been bothering me ever since we combined the Quincy loveliness of Membrillo, with a few thin slices of mature Manchego in a Barcelona tapas bar way back in the 90's. We don't grow Quince you see, and it's very rare to find Quince for sale in this country, so if you want to experience the fragrant loveliness of this strange fruit, you're jolly well going to have to find someone else who grows it. Even then you're going to have to talk them out of the fruit, unless of course they don't know what they've got...

My source of Quince fruit is a lovely, generous lady in nearby Medbourne, and she knows exactly what she's got! Luckily for me, this generous benefactor had already processed quite as much fruit as she could bear for one year, and I was welcome to take the remnants. Yay!

There are several things you can do with a handful of Quince. Simplest of all is to put them in a pretty bowl on a sunny windowsill and wait for the fruit to release their unique fragrance. Actually, this is probably a very good idea for the Quince novice. If you find the fragrance agreeable, you're ready to progress to the more advanced level of creating something edible from your fruit.

A few slices of Quince are likely to enhance any apple or pear based dessert, but if you really want to experience Quince Heaven, then Membrillo, or Quince Jam/Jelly is the fruits true vocation. I took Lornes recipe as a starting point, then largely ignored it.... sorry Lorne.

1.5 kg Ripe Quince (peeled, cored & sliced to give around 1kg of Quince flesh)
1 Lemon
1 large Bramley Apple (peeled, cored & sliced)
1 pint Dry Perry (or enough to barely cover the fruit)
1 kg Sugar

Slice the fruit into a pan containing the lemon juice to prevent browning (very tedious work, I really should add a Radio to the ingredients list). Add the perry and cook for 20 mins or so until reduced to pulpiness. Stir in the sugar and cook for a further 30 mins until well thickened and darkened to light golden.

Quince contains a lot of Pectin, so should almost certainly set well, but if you're concerned add a drop to a chilled dish to test the set as you would with jam. The Membrillo may taste a little too sharp at this stage, but rest assured that it will taste much more mellow when cooled.

Whilst hot, transfer to sterilised jam jars. This should keep for a good 6 months or more, and is excellent with strong cheese.

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