“This preserve is the original English marmalade:,” write Linda Zeidrich, “a jam so thick that you cut it with a knife to serve it.” Also known as Quince Paste or Quince Cheese, membrillo has undergone a fascinating evolution of both name and substance over the years. In her book The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves, Zeidrich traces the language used to describe membrillo back to 15th century Portugal, where quince was called marmelo and quince paste was marmelada. When the English took up the manufacture of quince paste, they initially called it marmalet, but this term came to encompass what we call marmalade today, and eventually the term marmalade grew to exclude any preserve that was not made with citrus peel. It has undergone other transmutations, too; in France, it is called cotignac; in Spain it is dulce de membrillo, or carne de membrillo.
No matter its name, membrillo itself is as mutable as its name has proven to be. The color can very from pale gold to deep red, depending on the level of oxidation. Apples brown undaintily when oxidized, but quince blush the rosiest shade of red. Repeated heating and cooling deepen the redness, so do not hesitate to allow the paste to cool between steps.
This recipe comes to us from Zeidrich’s The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves, as so many of our favorites do.
Makes about 1 3/4 pounds of membrillo
NOTE: This recipe requires a long resting period (8-10 hours) if you prefer a deeper finished color
Scoop out the seeds from each quince piece and discard the seeds.
Pass the quince through the medium screen of a food mill.
Put the quince puree into the pan again, along with the sugar.
Lightly oil, or spread parchment paper over the bottom of a baking sheet with vertical sides.
Spoon the quince paste over the sheet, about 3/4 inch thick. Let it cool at room temperature, and then turn the membrillo out of the dish to finish drying at room temperature or in a dehydrator.
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