A bowl of quince on a table is a beautiful, truly autumnal sight. Their scent reminds me of roses, orange flowers and saffron. Because of its tart astringent flavor, quince is one of the few fruits that are almost never eaten raw. It is delicious when cooked, though, and its high pectin content makes it particularly suitable for preserves.
Quinces have never been as popular as their common cousins, apples and pears. There is no satisfying, refreshing, crunchy bite, only sour, bitter and slightly woody. Yet after poaching, baking or cooking down in sugar for a long time they take on a deep ruby color, and the delicate perfume intensifies to a sweet, yet savory jewel of deliciousness. Adding some quince to an apple pie or crumble, or using chunks of cored quince in place of apricots or prunes in a slow cooked dish, will bring a whole new dimension to it.
Most commonly quince is eaten as membrillo, a quince paste that is popular in Spain. There are any number of versions; mine is a coarse paste with a deep red hue, and is delicious eaten with an aged tangy cheese like manchego, pecorino or cheddar. Quince paste is also useful in cooking-a slice in the pan with a pan roasted chicken can add a fruity sweet and sour flavor that gives an unexpected twist on the same old chicken.
Quince is a very versatile fruit, so once you come to grips with the fact that it needs long, slow cooking, you will find yourself putting it in all sort of things. -s
From Simply Recipes
4 pounds quince, washed, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
1 vanilla pod, split
2 strips (1/2 inch by 2 inches each) of lemon peel (only the yellow peel, no white pith)
3 Tbsp lemon juice
About 4 cups of granulated sugar, exact amount will be determined during cooking
1 Place quince pieces in a large saucepan (6-8 quarts) and cover with water. Add the vanilla pod and lemon peel and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook until the quince pieces are fork tender (30-40 minutes).
2 Strain the water from the quince pieces. Discard the vanilla pod but keep the lemon peel with the quince. Purée the quince pieces in a food processor, blender, or by using a food mill. Measure the quince purée. Whatever amount of quince purée you have, that's how much sugar you will need. So if you have 4 cups of purée, you'll need 4 cups of sugar. Return the quince purée to the large pan. Heat to medium-low. Add the sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice.
3 Continue to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1-1 1/2 hours (or up to 3 in my case), until the quince paste is very thick and has a deep orange pink color.
4 Preheat oven to a low 125°F (52°C). Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper (do not use wax paper, it will melt!). Grease the parchment paper with a thin coating of butter. Pour the cooked quince paste into the parchment paper-lined baking pan. Smooth out the top of the paste so it is even. Place in the oven for about an hour to help it dry. Remove from oven and let cool.
To serve, cut into squares or wedges and present with Manchego cheese. To eat, take a small slice of the membrillo and spread it on top of a slice of the cheese. Store by wrapping in parchment paper, foil or plastic wrap, and keeping in the refrigerator