From Scratch- Membrillo

If curiosity killed the cat, and if that, by chance, translates to the kitchen, to the process of cooking, I may be toast.

Making everything from scratch – everything- is not just about my paranoia with processed foods, which I totally own up to; it is about my love for the process, each and every part of it. I want to know how it gets to be what it is- the butter, the pasta, the stocks and sauces, and preserves. This time, it was membrillo. Never tried to make it before and cannot claim to be a huge fan, but I appreciate it. And I wanted to know how to make it- how to turn quince into membrillo.

Processing quince is an interesting little experiment of its own. Quince was common when I grew up. Gutuia, its Romanian name, showed up in the fall, coated with white soft hairs, a sort of fuzz that rubs off easily exposing the rock hard, bright-lemon-colored coat, waxy and fragrant. If we had a few of them, the scent would fill up the kitchen. And we always made the mistake of biting in, because the flavor was irresistible; the taste and texture- not irresistible.

Quince is really the pear’s sort-of-Neanderthalic cousin. It is related to both apples and pears, but most reminiscent of the latter. You see, those little stoney cells that make the texture of the pear more coarse, grittier, those are what defines the texture of quince- just more exaggerated. When cut, it oxidizes quickly; it browns the way a pear would. The taste of quince is sour- pucker-your-mouth-pungent sour, so it’s not exactly the sort of thing you may want to take a bite out of. But smell it- it’s intoxicating- a good ripe quince smells intoxicating. Save it for preserves or membrillo.

Membrillo, a recipe from the Moro cookbook

Ingredients: 4 quinces, up to 2 lbs sugar.

Cut up the pretty yellow quinces, such a weird fruit, into chunks. Cover with cold water in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Cook until the fruit is very soft.

Strain off all water but keep a cup. Place the soft pieces of quince in a blender. You might need to do this in batches. Blend until very smooth. If you need to add a little water to allow it to become really smooth without burning your blender.

Even smooth, the quince will have those little stoney cells that give it the gritty texture. Those are not exactly ideal in membrillo. To get them out, pass through a sieve or a food mill. Weigh the puree and measure out an equal quantity of sugar.

Return the quince along with the sugar to the heavy-bottomed pan and start cooking it on low heat stirring often. The sugar will melt and it will start to bubble and will attempt to stick to the sides and bottom of the pan. Stir and turn the heat on lower if that happens. And watch your stirring hand- one of those bubbles is enough for a blister.

Allow it to cook slow, to reduce, to brown gently and reduce, and thicken. This will take probably a couple of hours. When it is really really brown and thick, it’s ready. If it’s too sweet, add a little lemon.

Pour it in a flat bottomed pan, preferably rectangular, lined with parchment paper and allow it to cool completely.

After it cools, cut it up into whatever shape or size you want. I served it with Manchengo cheese and a little toast. You can choose to just eat a slice. It’s that good.

Photography by Jennifer Olson.

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  • A Plum By Any Other Name

    Your membrillo looks GORGEOUS. I don't see quince very often, but if I do I am snagging it right up to try this recipe!

    And I couldn't agree more. I found myself making green apple pectin over the weekend for jam making this fall. I found myself asking, "is this the best use of my time?" And the answer was, yes, it certainly was!

  • saltyseattle

    I am madly in the throes of passionate quince love here too- we always seem to share a brain:) Love the food mill tip, mine comes out so gritty- this'll help.

  • Jean

    This looks like something I can do, and want to do. Love the step-by-steps and the eating it with Manchego cheese is right up my alley.

  • Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris

    Quince and cheese is the Argentinian tradition..great step by step !!!
    Thanks for your support!

  • Sara

    I've not worked with quince, but certainly would give it a try. Even if it's just for the smell. Your description made my cheeks pucker.

  • Monet

    Wow! Just stunning. I have never seen a recipe for membrillo before, but you pulled yours off with skill! I loved seeing that last plate of food…that is exactly what I want in a snack. Thank you for the lovely recipe and the photos. And I agree with you…I'm all about the process.

  • michele

    Lovely recipe! Thank you for sharing!

  • The Mom Chef

    Wow, that looks fantastic and showing the process with pictures was very helpful. Thanks so much.

  • Lori Lynn

    Ah ha. Now I know how it's made! Love the pairing with manchego, and I've purchased it but never made it my self. Terrific post.

  • Isabelle

    Lovely tutorial. I grew up eating marmelada, the Portuguese version of membrillo, but it never crossed my mind to make my own. I might have to, now that I know it's so easy!
    (BTW, I've also made the mistake of trying to taste a raw quince before… mouth-puckering and tannic doesn't even begin to describe it. Ugh.)

  • Hilah

    I'm impressed. Haven't had membrillo in so long and yours looks delightful.

  • Maggie

    Wonderful tutorial! Quince are such fantastic fruit.