Quinces on a roadside tree in September.Being large, they are the last of the fruit to ripen and are ready in late September - October. I poached a few, but most of them went to make jelly (we have already eaten every jar) and I ran the pulp that remained after straining for jelly through a food mill to remove skin and seeds. It sat in the freezer until a week or so ago, when I got it out to make quince paste.
Molten lava countered with a mesh lid.Quince paste seems to have originated in Turkey and from there made its way to Spain and Portugal. In English language cookbooks it is often called membrillo, which is the Spanish word for quince. Quince paste in Spanish is called dulce de membrillo. The French for quince is coing, so quince paste is pâte de coing. In England it is commonly referred to as quince cheese, and this is how I first encountered it, at the farmers market I shopped at regularly in the late 1990s-early 2000s. It is used both in a sweet and a savoury context, as a counter to strongly flavoured cheeses or game and as a petit four or friandise with coffee. In France it is regarded as a seasonal treat, made in the autumn and served over the Christmas - New Year period.
The stiff dark paste just out of the oven.To make it you combine an equal quantity of quince pulp and sugar in a large boiler. Heat it slowly to dissolve the sugar and then simmer for about 1.5 hours, on the lowest possible heat. It burns easily, so check it regularly and scrape the bottom of the pan. Slowly the colour will darken from orangey pink to brownish orange as it cooks. It is like working with molten lava, both in its appearance and its capacity to burn the unwary cook. You can't cook it with the lid on because you need to drive a fair bit of water off. To protect against burns and splashes I use a mesh lid on the pan, which allows steam, but nothing else out.
Starting to cut the block of paste into rods.Once it has got thick and dark and you are having difficulty preventing it from burning even on the lowest heat, transfer it to a baking tray lined with baking paper. Put it in the oven at 50°C for another 1.5 hours to dry out some more. Then leave it in the fridge overnight to cool completely and set. The next day tip it out on to a board dredged in icing or vanilla sugar. Ideally, cut the paste into thick rods with a wire, but a long knife will do. Dredge or roll these rods in sugar, wrap in waxed paper and refridgerate. To serve, unwrap and cut into cubes. Roll the cubes in vanilla, golden castor or raw sugar.
All wrapped up and ready to store in the fridge.You can also bottle (can) it by putting it in sterilised jars instead of in the oven. Close the jars and process in a water bath in the normal way. This will give you a paste for spreading on bread like a jam, which is very popular in Spain topped with Manchego cheese.
And for those of you interested in maintaining a certain sort of daily regularity, quince paste works as well as the traditional prune.