Quince paste is as old as the hills, being made in the Middle East and slowly spreading across Europe and indeed into Australia, primarily through our foodie icon, Maggie Beer. It must be one of the best uses of quinces.
You will find quinces in the green grocers in Autumn and again in Spring. They are long-keeping, so the appearance in the shops in Spring is a bit of an artifice, I am afraid, as their fruiting time is Autumn. I have such a love of this fruit – perhaps they remind me of my Grandmother. Years ago, I knew of a wonderful, neglected quince tree in the Clare Valley in South Australia, and each Autumn I would spend a weekend in this delightful region and come home with a bucket of quinces. One year, the tree had been removed, and I was devastated.
Since then, I have found that one of my friends has a quince tree, and every Autumn I still get my bucket of quinces. I feel blessed at this time of year.
There are many recipes for quince paste. I use this one. Some recipes will drain off the pulp and use the liquid for Quince Jelly, but I like the way that the longer cooking intensifies the flavour. Serve with the creamiest of cheeses, or eat on its own as a sweet – sneak some for your midnight snack.
This recipe is one of the vegetarian recipes from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2005, and is part of our Retro Recipes series.
Peel and core the quinces, retaining the peelings and the cores if you want to make quince jelly.
Cook the quinces in a little water on top of the stove, in the oven or in a slow cooker, until the fruit is tender and a ruby colour. In a slow cooker, this takes around 4 – 5 hours on high or all day on low. On the stove it takes around 2.5 – 3 hours.
Purée the fruit in a mouli or blender with enough of the water to make a smooth puree. Retain the rest of the cooking liquid – make quince syrup or quince jelly with it.
Cook the purée slowly with an equal quantity of sugar, stirring continuously, until it comes away from the sides of the pan. While it is cooking, it is like an erupting volcano. Protect surfaces with towels, and even hands and arms with gloves if cooking a large amount.
Pour into a shallow bowl or pan that has been lined with baking paper (not waxproof paper) or clingwrap, and allow to cool. Cut into squares or wedges, and store in airtight container, separated with wax paper or baking paper. Do not refrigerate. Serve small pieces with coffee or with the creamiest of cheeses.
For longer shelf life, dehydrate them. Do this naturally – place in a single layer in a container, cover with a tea towel, and allow to sit in a cool cupboard for a month or more. Or use your dehydrator on a low heat for 6 – 12 hours until no longer sticky.
making quince jelly
To make quince jelly, boil the quince trimmings with the retained cooking liquid until the peelings are pink to red (another 2 hours) and then proceed to the reducing the liquid and adding sugar stage of the Quince Jelly recipe.
recipe notes and alternatives
Add some spices to the quinces as they are first cooking – star anise, black peppercorns, coriander pods, cinnamon, rosemary are some ideas.
Add the juice of 2 limes or lemons (or to taste) per kilo of fruit. This helps with setting.
Make a double batch if you want enough to last for some time.
This photo shows it has finished cooking and about to go into the dehydrator. I line a pan with baking paper, and pour the paste into the pan. The whole pan goes into the dehydrator (I have a large one) until it is dry enough to remove the paper from the pan and sit it on a shelf of the dehydrator. Twelve hours later, I flip the paste onto a silicone mat and peel off the baking paper.
When it has dried some more, it will then be cut into squares and dried on the dehydrator mesh racks until all stickiness is gone. Try using scissors for cutting the paste – it is often easier than a knife.
After cutting and while it is drying, turn it periodically until it is no longer sticky. You can dry it to your preferred level of hardness.
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