Sunday, December 8

Quince Cheese (Membrillo)

There was an elderly chap across the road from the pub who had a quince tree in his front garden groaning with ripe yellow fruit. I wasn't sure he knew what he had growing, or if he did, what to do with the bounty. A hand written note was posted through the front door and a few days later the chap popped into the pub. Rather surprisingly given the sheer quantity of fruit, he said he could spare none as he was planning to make quince jelly.  Now there must have been 100kg of fruit on this tree, enough to make thousands of!  Well, it was his tree...his call. Sure enough, the next week he popped by with a wheelbarrow full......properly sick of jelly making he was!

Quince is an old English fruit that has fallen out of favour as it cannot be eaten raw and needs long slow cooking. The flavour is great but it is the grainy, pear like texture that makes it unique. Good with more than cheese, this would work well with pork or in a sweet dessert. You won't be able to pick quince from the tree at this time of year, the last had fallen in the high winds last week, but your greengrocer will be able to get you some. There are no quantities here, just proportions. Make a few kilos worth as it keeps for ages in Kilner jars.

Caster sugar
Star Anise
Fennel seeds
Lemon juice

Peel, core and chop up the quince into large pieces. Weigh the fruit. Toss the fruit into ayour largest stainless pan with a good solid bottom. Add half the weight of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon per kilo of fruit. Now these spice quantities are for approx 2 kilos of fruit so multiply up as necessary. Make a little muslin 'tea bag' of 2 cinnamon sticks, 10 star anise, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 6 cloves. Tie up with string and add to the pot with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, skim any scum and turn the heat as low as it will go. Gently blip away until the quince is very soft. Remove the spice bag and blitz the fruit with a hand blender - it doesn't need to be super smooth. Return the spice bag and gently blip away further stirring every now and then. 

The puree will reduce and start to go a deep red - when you get to 'blood colour', you are close to where you need to be - remove the spice bag. There are no hard and fast rules, only that the more you reduce the puree, the firmer the 'set' will be. I like to be able to slice the finished product so reduce as far as you dare without letting it catch and burn.

Tip into a suitably sized, and scrupulously clean container lined with cling-film, or a sterilised jar. Allow to cool then chill in the fridge until set. will keep for months properly wrapped or jarred.

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