Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vanilla Bean Quince Paste

I love the humble quince. I don't care how it's prepared, I still love it. Quince jam, quince tarts, quince everything. But most of all, I love quince paste. Quince paste is like magic to me. Unbelievably delicious in an almost peaceful sort of way. It's sweet, but not to sweet. The rich pectin content of the quince gives it a silky yet gelatinous texture. It's the perfect snack. Good alone as dessert, as a midnight snack, or beautiful with cheese. It can be melted down to use as a glaze or incorporated into dressings. And yet, it's so satisfying that just one square is enough to make you happy.

Because of all this, anytime I see quince at the store I try to buy several so I can make enough paste to last me through the year (though I usually do this in more than one batch). Quince is back in the stores now, and it's a huge source of excitement for me. However, I decided this year to do something a little different with it. Enter vanilla bean. I always figure that vanilla makes nearly everything just a little better than it was on its own, so I thought I'd see if that rule held true for quince paste. For me, it did. This recipe is best made on a chilly, rainy evening when you have nothing else to do but get through a chapter of philosophy homework. I hope you enjoy!

3 quince, peeled and cored, then cut into chunks
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (I reserve the pod for homemade vanilla extract)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
sugar equal to the volume of the cooked quince

Place the quince in a baking dish and place in the oven. Set the oven to 350 and set the timer for an hour. The quince should be soft at this point. Remove from oven and puree with the cup of water. Measure this mixture, then pour into a saucepan. Add an equal volume of sugar, the lemon juice and the vanilla seeds. Cook over the lowest heat setting on your stove, stirring every 10 or so minutes, until it seems like it's setting up (this will take a couple hours). Heat the oven to 170F or the lowest available setting you have. Grease a pan (or two little ones, like I like to) and pour the paste into the pan(s). Smooth the top, then put it/them in the oven for a couple hours to dry a bit. When it's dried and completely set, you can either leave it in the pan and take out slices as you want them (this is what I do), or you can unmold and cut them into pieces, then wrap with wax paper.

2 comments:

  1. Allie, this is a great idea. Quince is usually in short supply here, but, for whatever reason, we have lots of it this year.

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  2. Thanks, Mary. :) I will tell you that even with oven drying it, it's never quite as dry as I like my paste (this may be a byproduct of years and years of eating commercially made membrillo), so I will usually eat just a bit, then tuck it in the fridge for another while, by which time it's exactly the kind of commercially-made texture I prefer. If you're used to the commercially made stuff too, you might want to dry it longer in the oven, or just tuck it in the fridge to dry over a longer period of time.

    I'm glad there's tons of quince for you to obtain this year!

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