This is part tip and part cautionary tale. Turns out that soon after I’d read Chris’ post about quince, I went to the Berkeley Tuesday Market and there they were. I’ve always loved membrillo, but have never cooked quince myself and they smelled so amazing, I had to bring some home.
Being an amateur, I asked the farmer what I should do with my quince. He said to steam them and then cook them down with sugar to make jam. Since Chris had trouble getting the skins to let go of the good stuff inside after baking them, I thought maybe steaming was the answer.
So I took them home and put them in the steamer for about 10 minutes (just until the skins look like they’re about to split). I let them cool a bit and went at them with a paring knife and the skins came off easily without taking too much of the flesh inside with them. I cut them in quarters, cored them and then chopped them up and put them in a saucepan with about 1 1/2 cups of sugar (using 3 quince) and 1/4 cup water. I sort of wanted to make membrillo, but wasn’t really sure what I was making. That’s where my luck ends and the cautionary tale begins.
I started them cooking over medium heat thinking things would take awhile. I got distracted at my computer and when I checked back after about 10 minutes, the bottom was just beginning to burn. I very nearly ruined my indestructible enameled cast iron saucepan and probably the scrubbing didn’t help its future non-stick properties. After cleaning the pan, I put everything back in and tried cooking it on low, stirring more or less constantly. The mixture seemed like it was never going to develop the thick consistency of quince paste. I lost patience and was worried about my pan so I stopped. What I ended up with was somewhere past a jam but short of a paste, so I guess I made quince butter. It’s good on toast, and I’m sure I’ll come up with some other uses.