Everyone wants quince paste on their cheeseboard. With time, heat and sugar, you can transform autumn’s strange offering into a divine condiment.
Quinces – as many as you have or can fit into your biggest pot or slow cooker, whole and covered with water
Sugar – Roughly 3/4 of the weight of the quinces you are using
eg. 2kg fruit will need at least 1.5kg sugar
Optional – place a vanilla pod and its seeds (scraped out with a knife) into the simmering pot
Optional – 1tsp Agar agar per kilo of quince (if you’re worried about your paste not coming to the firmness you desire, you can add this before the chilling process at the end and it will help it firm up!)
Everyone wants quince paste on their cheeseboard. With time, heat and sugar, you can transform autumn’s strange offering into a divine condiment and enjoy it with the satisfaction that comes from making something you might otherwise have bought. It’s a long, slightly messy but easy process, so if time is on your side try making a batch – it might be the alternative passata-making tradition for you.
Here’s a synopsis of the process: weigh the quinces, rub off any fur on the skin and cook the quinces whole (takes a few hours), core and purée them, simmer and reduce with sugar (another few hours), pour the paste into a tray and leave for a day to set. Quince paste!
So, the easiest way to cook up the quinces is probably with a slow cooker. Leave them whole, cover with water and cook overnight on low. Without such an appliance, just poach them on the stove for a couple of hours. Slow cooking the quinces whole will help to maximise the pectin in the purée, which will set the paste. Pectin levels also reduce as the fruits ripen and become more yellow, so choose your greenest fruit for this.
The next day, when they are cooled, you can easily peel the skin away with your fingers and core them*. Now that they’re cooked, you need another few hours of stove hover time. Blend the fruit into a purée and gently heat in your most generous pot. Add the sugar – roughly 3/4 of the weight of the original quinces, or thereabouts, and simmer on the lowest hob for 3-5 hours. Let it reduce as it bubbles away, becoming thicker and gloriously red. You’ll need to stir it occasionally, and skim off any scum that appears at the surface. Just be careful as it can spit a bit, keep it on very low.
At some point, after several hours, it’ll be past the jam stage and the whole hot purée will be thick and start coming away from the sides. Though a runnier version will still taste fantastic as a jam or syrup over ice cream, you can’t beat those nice gift-giving slabs so keep going if you can – until it becomes as thick as you can manage. If you’re worried it’ll never get thick enough, add in the tsp of agar agar and mix thoroughly to combine, it’ll help firm it up as it cools.
Line a shallow tray with baking paper, and pour the hot mess of it into the tray. Leave it for a day, then cut into sections once it has set. If you’re not convinced it will actually set firmly, pour it into small gift-able jars.
Eat liberally with a good manchego or stinky blue cheese, and perhaps a nice glass of red!
Hints and Tips
*If you’ve cooked up extra, why not keep a portion aside in the freezer to add to other meals like fruit crumbles or porridge or apple cake or compotes.