I stumbled across a small basket of Danish apple quinces sitting on the top row of my green grocers outdoor rack. They were sitting on top of all kind of regional-grown apples – Lobo, Cox, Belle de Boskoop – and just waiting to be brought home to my kitchen. Quinces are great. Period. They go in stews, spice up apple dishes and not least great for sweets.
I haven’t seen Danish quinces in the stores before. You can get imported ones from countries around the Med pretty much all year long, but Danish ones are rare. I grabbed a few and already knew what to make – membrillo. We’ve made for Christmas the last couple of years from bush quinces from my parents house. Botanically it’s a whole different ball game, or so I’m told anyway, but the results have been good, though. This year however, it was to be the real deal, regional apple quinces, how much better does it get? Not a whole lot, actually. I was pleased I must admit! The paste thickened easier than before, maybe because of a higher pectin content, and the taste was great. Sweet with deep apple aromatics.
It takes a little while making the membrillo – and constant attention! This is one of those instances where you need a distraction free environment. I swear, the bobbling lava that eventually becomes a paste can smell if you answer the phone. It will burn, trust me. Once you set up your distraction free environment, wash the quinces, quarter and pit. Boil them in water until the are soft (up to thus point it is okay answering emergency phone calls etc.) Discard the water, press the soft quinces through a sieve discarding the peels. In a saucepan combine the puree with equal amounts of sugar and a little lemon peel and stir on very low heat until a thick amber paste is formed. It will take a while. Once you’re satisfied, transfer to a lined dish and put in a preheated oven at 50C until the top is no longer sticky to the touch. Let it cool, cube and roll in sugar. Serve along any old Christmas munching – English fudge, orangettes etc.