Friday, October 9, 2009

Quince Jelly and Quince Paste (Membrillo)

Quince Jelly and Quince Paste

Ripe Quince in Green Bowl

Selecting the quince was easy; anything that came off of the tree. They can be picked slightly under ripe, but the tree won't let you take them if they aren't ripe enough. When the quince become ripe all the skin will be yellow and you will smell a wonderful strawberry like fragrance. Quince do not quickly rot, but interestingly when they do only a brown spot appears. They do not actually get mushy, so even while rotting they will be firm. Just cut that part away to use the rest of the fruit.

Quince are great for canning because they need to be cooked extensively before they are consumable so they will often be hot and ready to pour into a canning jar. I also love they don't need to be processed immediately.

Quince Jelly & Quince Paste
(the paste is also known widely as Membrillo and is a major export of Spain)

Quince Jelly

Quince jelly is absolutely divine to look at. It's a beautiful deep rose red that reminds one of a gem when in the sun light.

Quince Paste

Quince paste is a delicacy making a come back through gourmet facets. This is typically served with a pungent or strong cheese like an aged cheddar or salt pocked gouda. It goes well with savory as it is sweet, but not over poweringly so. Making it yourself allows you to control the sweetness, so if you like it sweeter add more sugar per cup of puree.

I tackled so much quince (35 quince) in one go that I had to split the procedure into two days. This is not necessary if you only process a couple handfuls of quince a day ... no more than 4 pounds or so, which is about 10 quince.

First to note, quince jelly can be made exactly like apple jelly minus adding pectin. Quince are incredibly high in pectin, especially the skin and core. If making exactly like apple jelly the core is often left in and all the pulp is discarded. In this instance the pulp will be reserved for the quince paste.

3 1/2 pounds quince (about 6 - 7 small quince or approximately 4 -5 large quince)
7 cups water
7 cups sugar divided (4 cups for jelly, 3 cups for paste)

Just an FYI, a large quince about the size of a softball is about 1 pound. I bought 4 large quince at $2/pound and it cost me about $8.

1. For the next two recipes the quince will need to be rinsed, de-fuzzed, and cored. Do not peel. The slices can be put in a pan of acidified water while all of the quince are appropriately sliced to prevent browning. Acidifying can be done easily with a high acid citrus like lime or lemon. Lemon is usually a preferred choice because it is paired so well with the subtle natural sweetness of quince.

Cores of Various Sizes
Use a Sharp knife!

2. Add enough water to the quince to cover by 1 inch. Cook the quince in water for 1 hour to soften. Optional: add 1/2 scraped vanilla pod or 1 tsp crush white cardamom seeds. Once the quince is cooked, the quince will need to be mashed with the water. This can be done with a potato masher or food processor. I did try to use a blender but the natural pectin of the quince kept stalling the top portion from blending no matter how much cooking liquid I added.

Cooked Quince

Pureed Quince with Cooking Liquid

3. Separate the pulped mash from the liquid. This can be done with a clean pillow case or several layers of cheese cloth draped over a colander with a bowl below to catch the liquid. A fine sieve can also be used. It will take about 3 - 4 hours.

4. While straining one batch I often continue with paste recipe from yesterday's batch. For every cup of mashed pulp you will need 1 cup of sugar. Add a small amount of water to get sugar to combine if pulp is very dry. Stir constantly on medium high heat until sugar is dissolved. Optional: Add juice of 1 lemon.

Quince Pulp with Sugar

5. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally while on low heat until quince mixture appears a deep pink to orange color.

1 hour

2 hours 30 minutes

6. The paste will need to continue to cook in the oven until it reaches a very deep red pinkish color to set. Set the oven to 200 degrees F (110 Celsius or Mark 1/4).

If this is going to be consumed right away the paste may be distributed into ramekins or a glass pan lined with parchment paper (avoid wax, it will melt). After the paste is cooked it has a shelf life in the refrigerator for 4 months, but honestly I've kept it longer by constantly scooping off the top thus exposing a new layer. Canning will keep the paste 1 - 2 years.

Once in the oven the paste drying times will vary by container size. A firm set and a deep ruby red color indicate finished drying time. In Europe the paste is dried for 7 days in the pantry. In America people have had cleaver ideas like putting it out in a covered porch in the sun. Ideally, however you choose to dry it should be fine.

A simple method is to cook for 3 hours in an 8 x 8 pan. Remove and when cool place in refrigerator over night. The paste should have set and be ready to eat.

If canning, when fully dried from the oven, water bath process for 10 minutes. My 1 cup jars take about 3 hours to dry in an oven set to 200 degrees F.

Dried & Canned Paste

7. Measure the juice you have for the jelly. There should be about 4 to 5 cups. Pour into a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Add the sugar. I usually use about 3/4 cup sugar per cup of liquid. Recipes vary from 7/8ths to even a full cup per cup of juice.

If you do not have enough juice adding a cup to 2 cups of water is fine at this stage to bring this to volume. However, I would recommend adding some pectin. There should be enough in the quince pectin at this stage and that is why it is only a recommendation. This is highly dependent upon just how much water you add.
Also to note, if you don't add pectin and it doesn't fully set as a jelly this is not a big deal. Simply use it as a quince sauce or add pectin and reboil. The sauce goes wonderfully with ice cream, yogurt, and the like. I even put it on crepes!

Juice and Sugar

8. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Skim the foam as the jelly cooks or alternatively add a small pat of butter. The butter will virtually eliminate the foam and in small quantities is save for canning. Make sure to rinse utensils as the high pectin makes things very sticky, not to mention all that sugar. Both of these act as a preservative and are very necessary.

45 minutes / Skimming Foam

9. To test for the set of the jelly: place a plate (I used a ramekin  in the freezer. Once cold place a drop of the jelly mixture on the plate. If it appears watery, it is not set. If you push it with your finger and it wrinkles slightly, it is finished.

Set After 1 1/2 Hours

Once fully set and color of jelly is a red tone, pour into sterilized jars. Water process for 10 minutes. Or any other canning method for jelly you prefer such as freezer or wax.

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