Canning quince paste (membrillo) was an exciting first for me this year. I’ve heard a lot about the mysterious quince fruit on nerdy food forums and blogs, but I’ve never seen it in person or had to opportunity to forage the unusual fall fruit myself.
Well, imagine my surprise to see a giant box of local quinces sitting at my favourite neighbourhood grocery store a few days ago! I was so excited that I immediately loaded up with over 10 pounds of fruit without having any idea what I’d do with it all when I got home.
Luckily, a quick online search yielded a number of different quince recipes, including some very intriguing sounding quince paste recipes. Quince paste, which is also known as membrillo, is a traditional preserve that’s often served with cheese, baked into pastries, or served with bread. It’s also delicious, insanely aromatic, and a unique addition to your typical charcuterie plate.
Here’s a detailed look at the strange quince fruit and a quince paste canning recipe to make membrillo at home.
What is a Quince?
A quince is a fall fruit related to apples and pears. They originally grew on the rocky hills and forests of South-West Asia, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and northern Iran to Afghanistan. However, they can be grown successfully in many climates worldwide, including British Columbia’s.
This fruit has a fascinating history. Quinces were known to the Akkadians of Mesopotamia, are featured as part of ancient Grecian mythology, and appeared in ancient Roman cookbooks. Even marmalade was originally made with quince jam, which can be seen from the derivative of the word, marmelo, which is Portuguese for quince.
Quinces are green when underripe, bulbous and unevenly shaped, and may have a gray fuzz growing on their surface. Most varieties are almost inedible when raw because of how astringent, sour, and hard they are. Their flesh is tough, woody, and strangely spongy.
Despite these qualities, quinces are amazing fruits. Like pears, you can find them underripe and ripen them at home. As they ripen, their skin turns a beautiful yellow-gold colour, and when cooked, their white flesh turns rosy pink. Their intensely aromatic fragrance also becomes more pronounced, with perfume notes of citrus, vanilla, and apple.
Quinces are high in pectin, making them valuable additions to jams, jellies, and purees. In the Balkan region, quinces are made into liquor called eau-de-vie (rakija), and in the Alsace and Switzerland regions, they’re made into liqueur de coing, which is used as a digestif.
About Quince Paste (Membrillo)
Quince paste (membrillo, or dulce de membrillo) originates from the Iberian Peninsula. Though membrillo is Spanish, the practice of making quince paste can be found throughout quince-eating cultures around the world.
Quince paste is used in a variety of ways, such as in sandwiches, baked goods, and on cheese plates. The fruit paste is also very popularly eaten with manchego cheese and fresh curds.
Where to Find Quince
To be honest, quinces are hard to find on the Sunshine Coast. However, you may be able to find them in Vancouver when they’re in season, typically during late October and early November, before the first winter frost.
You can find quinces seasonally in Vancouver, BC at:
- Select local neighbourhood markets on Commercial Drive
- Select local neighbourhood markets on Lonsdale in North Vancouver
- Occasionally, Whole Foods also stocks quinces
If you’re on the Sunshine Coast and unable to travel to Vancouver during seasonal quince time, you may be able to get a hold of them by asking your networks of friends and family if they know anyone with a fruiting quince tree — and if you have a quince tree, let me know!
Canning Quince Paste (Membrillo)
Wash and dry quinces, removing any fuzz on the skin. Peel, core, and chop quinces into 2″ pieces, placing processed quinces in a bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent browning.
Drain quinces, cover them in water, and bring to a boil on the stove. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft.
Puree softened quinces with blender until smooth. Measure quince puree back into the pot and add an equal amount of sugar (1 cup of quince puree to 1 cup of sugar, approximately 7 cups total).
Bring quince-sugar mixture to boil over high heat. Immediately lower heat to allow quince membrillo to simmer until very thick and ruby red, approximately 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Prepare mason jars and lids by sanitizing them. Fill the mason jars with quince paste (membrillo) and water bath can for 15 minutes until sealed and preserved. Store canned quince paste for up to 12 months in a cold, dark place.
Enjoy this canned quince paste (membrillo) with cheese or in your favorite dessert!
Canning Quince Paste (Membrillo) Recipe
Canning Quince Paste (Membrillo)
Canning quince paste (membrillo) is a perfect activity to take advantage of the unusual seasonal and foraged fruit you can find in British Columbia and worldwide.
- 13 quinces
- 7 c. sugar (approximately)
- 1/4 c. lemon juice
- 1-2 tsp. aromatic spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, or vanilla (optional)
- cold water
Wash and dry quinces, removing any gray fuzz on the skin. Peel, core, and chop quinces into 2” pieces, placing pieces in a large bowl of water filled with water and lemon juice to prevent them from browning from exposure to air. When all quinces are prepped, drain lemon water and place quinces in a pot.
Cover quinces with water until barely covered and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately lower heat to allow quince mixture to simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking or burning.
Puree quince and water mixture in a blender until smooth. Measure the quince puree back into the pot and add an equal amount of sugar (1 cup of quince puree to 1 cup of sugar, approximately 7 cups total). Bring quince mixture to a boil over high heat.
Immediately lower heat to allow quince mixture to simmer uncovered until very thick and ruby red colored, approximately 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove rings and lids from mason jars, and then sanitize jars by covering with water in the water bath canner, bringing water to a rolling boil for 10 minutes, and then leave in hot water until ready for use. Place lids in a bowl and run steaming hot water over them for 5 minutes
Remove hot jars from the canner using a jar lifter and fill with hot quince mixture up to ¼” from the top of the jar with a ladle and funnel. Run a knife along the inside of the jar edge to remove air bubbles and run a damp cloth over the lid of the jar to remove any spilled quince mixture.
Use tongs to remove lids from water and place on top of jars, sealing the jars finger-tight using the rings. Place jars back into the canner and cover with 2” of water, bringing the water up to a hard boil. Place lid on canner and process at hard boil for 15 minutes.
Turn off heat and carefully remove canner lid, allowing jars to sit for 5 minutes before removing from canner using the jar lifter. Place jars on a kitchen towel and leave undisturbed for 12 hours (do not touch lids). Check seal by pressing the centre of the lids down. If they do not pop up, they are sealed and shelf stable. If they pop, they are not sealed and should be stored in the fridge. Store sealed quince paste for up to 12 months in a cool, dark place