Want to do a little kitchen sorcery?
With a little bit of heat, a heaping of sugar, and a couple hours of time, you can transform what looks like a yellowish apple into a magical, reddish-golden paste.
You can turn a dark corner light.
I first tasted dulce de membrillo (quince paste) several years ago. It arrived as thin slivers on a cheese plate in a restaurant that knew how to do cheese right.
On its own, membrillo tastes sweet but complex, a blend of pear, citrus, honey, vanilla and flowers. Eat a thin slice of it with a bite of Manchego cheese, and there is another sort of alchemy, like when you spread a bit of fig jam on a smear of chèvre and your eyes pop open wide because the combination is the edible equivalent of waking up and realizing it’s a Saturday.
I never imagined membrillo was something I could make on my own. For special occasions, we buy it (imported from Spain), at our local cheese counter and always feel lucky that we can get it that easily.
Then, about a year ago, I saw that Sara at Three Clever Sisters had made it and the light bulb that perpetually hovers dimly over my head sizzled to life.
You mean…I can make this myself?
What devilish magic is this?
It turns out that the hardest part about making this recipe is finding the quince. Once you’ve done that, the rest is a cinch.
The neatest part of the whole process (I think) is the color change. The slow cooking gently breaks down the quince and changes the pulp from a pale yellow puree that resembles applesauce to a thick, golden-to-red paste. Mine didn’t get quite as red as the kind we buy in the store, but I cooked it as far as I was willing, before the paste started to scorch.
The recipe I used is from Simply Recipes. You’ll see that the ingredients are just quince, a vanilla bean, a lemon, and sugar.
But the recipe neglects to mention the magic incantation that assures success:
Let the sun shine