When the quince cheese is ready it will be so thick that you will see the bottom of the pan when you draw a wooden spoon through the mixture.
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- 4-5 quinces
- 1 kg sugar
- 1 litre water
- 4-5 quinces
- 5 cups sugar
- 4 cups water
Dulce de Membrillo (Quince Cheese)
Fruit cheeses are very old-fashioned preserves made from equal quantities of fruit and sugar cooked slowly together until they are very thick and paste-like. Once they have cooled and set they can be cut with a knife, like cheese, and they are delicious to eat with cheese. In Spain slices of quince cheese are traditionally served with Queso manchego, a sheep’s milk cheese, or try it as an accompaniment to nougat at the end of a meal. By the 16th century the British were importing quantities of Spanish, Portuguese or Italian-made quince sweetmeats, all destined for the tables of the rich among whom they were a highly fashionable gift. Quince Cheese is still a very acceptable gift since quinces have a short season, are not widely grown and making the quince cheese takes several hours. This is not an everyday preserve. Until I found this method of making it I often found getting Quince Cheese to set firmly a bit of a challenge. Most recipes begin by cooking the quinces and then pureeing them before adding an equal quantitiy of sugar and cooking the mixture very slowly for several hours. This recipe, in which raw grated quince is cooked in a sugar syrup comes from 'Spanish Regional Cookery' by Anna MacMiadhacháin (1976). The resulting Quince Cheese has a slightly pebbly texture which I enjoy, it is a beautiful dark rose pink colour and best of all, it sets very quickly.
- Line a shallow 8 in / 20 cm square tin or dish with a piece of baking paper. Rub any grey fluff from the skins of the quinces and wash them. The quinces should be yellow. If they are still green leave them at room temperature for a few days to ripen - they will scent the room beautifully as they slowly turn yellow.
Making the quince cheese
- Make a syrup by dissolving the sugar in the water in a large pan. Let the syrup come to a gentle simmer.
- Peel the quinces and grate the flesh coarsely away from the cores. (Discard the core and peels, or simmer them slowly in water to make a pink quince stock which you can use for cooking apples, or make into quince jelly.)
- Add the grated quince to the simmering syrup and stir until it comes back to the boil. Now leave the mixture to simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so. Set the timer. i
- As the quince cheese begins to change colour and thicken, watch it closely to make sure it doesn't stick to the base of the pan, and stir more often. When the quince cheese is really thick you should be able to see the base of the pan clearly when you draw the wooden spoon through the mixture.
- Scrape the quince cheese into your prepared tin and level the top. Leave to set for at least a day in a warm place, then wrap and store airtight. Cut into squares to serve. It keeps for years. You can add little cubes of Dulce de Membrillo to a cake, or mix a few with the apples for an apple pie, or leave some to melt on a grilled pork chop, or roll them in a little caster sugar and serve with coffee after a meal.