In ancient Greece, quince was the fruit of love, marriage and fertility and so it was often a wedding gift. It has a lovely fragrance – my father always used to put one in the car in November and my grandmother would keep some in the linen cupboard or around the house. When raw, its flesh is sour but after gentle and patient cooking it sweetens and turns golden pink. Its high levels of pectin make it ideal for jams and jellies and, of course, for quince cheese or dulce de membrillo.
The season for quince is short. It is in season in November but you should start looking for them around the third week of October. You will find them in good fruit and vegetable stores and some supermarkets, such as Waitrose, store them as well.
I make dulce de membrillo every year and it represents the beginning of winter for me. The recipe is easy and, although it requires a bit of patience, it is a very comforting thing to make as the days get shorter and colder.
2 kg quince, Sugar (about 1 kg, see below), Water
Wash the quince under cold water to get rid of the downy fur that covers the skin and put them in a big pan to boil for about 30 minutes. Take them out and leave to cool.
Once they are cool enough to handle, peel them, cut the flesh and discard the! core.
Weigh the flesh and add the same amount of sugar. I normally use 50% granulated sugar and 50% jam or preserve sugar.
Now all you need is a bit of patience: cook the quince and the sugar over a low heat, stirring constantly for about 30 minutes until the quince has lost its water and you have a thick compote or paste. Be careful not to overcook it. Pour it in containers and leave to cool. You should get about two long blocks with this amount of quince. You can cut it in small block and wrap them individually; I use freezer layering tissue. Keep it in the fridge or freeze if you prefer.
Serve it at room temperature with hard cheese such as Manchego or Pecorino.
Photographs copyright Marta Pipiora: martapipioraphotography.blogspot.com