As we head towards December and Christmas many locals are turning to preserving some of the fruits of the land. And there couldn’t be a more traditional Spanish preserve than membrillo
What is Membrillo?
Dulce de membrillo (or just membrillo) is a sweet, sticky, very thick jelly made from the fruit of the quince tree and is a typical dessert eaten in Spain, although it is also served with toast at the breakfast table. Unlike jams and jellies, membrillo is dense enough to hold its shape. Dulce de membrillo has a sweet flavor tinged with a bit of sharpness. In English, it is known as either quince paste or quince cheese.
What are Quince?
The quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) is a relative to the apple and the pear and is native to Europe and parts of Asia.The fruit is golden yellow and looks like a large lumpy pear. Not only is it unattractive but it is difficult to eat and doesn’t taste good raw! When cooked however, quince release a delicious fruity perfume and changes from pale yellow to a deep red colour.
How Membrillo is Made?
In the same way as jam, membrillo or quince paste is made by combining the fruit with sugar and water and cooking at a low heat until it thickens to a gelatin consistency. The high amount of natural pectin in the quince creates a paste that is so dense the dulce de membrillo can be sliced. It is normally sold in squares or blocks for slicing at home.
How to Serve Membrillo
Traditionally membrillo is served around Christmas time with Manchego cheese which gives a delicious salty contrast to the sweetness of the membrillo.
For a light dessert or at breakfast, serve membrillo on top of toast with cheese, called membrillo con queso. Cut the quince paste into thin slices and place over plain toast or toast that’s been spread with soft cheese or cream cheese.
If you’re visiting at the right time of year ( October/November) why not head out into the countryside and find some? There are plenty around – take some home and give it a try?