Thursday, November 18, 2010
Bad Idea Fridays: Membrillo
Dear readers, you might think that making quince jam does not count as a truly bad idea. Pish, you say, and also tosh- jam is always tasty, unless the fruit is rotten or the jam is burned. Sometimes even under these circumstances, edibility ensues. I say that you have never spoken with my inlaws about making membrillo.
A quick aside on the culture of my beloved: for some reason, jam is fraught with associations. I can't begin to comprehend what they are- but making preserves is not done. Well, of course it's done, because one has all this fruit and no one else can be trusted to can it, but one doesn't spread this fact around. Jam apparates, like horses in Jane Austen novels. There was a bit of teeth sucking when I announced my intentions. Then, there was a certain amount of trepidation in admitting to actually knowing a person who might know a recipe. Long story short, I'm not sure if this is a family secret or not. Even though I link over from Facebook, keep it on the downlow.
Get some quince. I had six, but one of them was the size of a child's head. You will probably want less than six, because there is room for only so much sliceable jam in most people's lives. (Quince are in the same subfamily of Rosaceae as apples and pears, and have a similar pome. The flavor is intensely floral; in fact, the best thing I have ever done with quince is letting them ripen in a bowl on the counter- it always smelled like I was baking pie. The fruit is full of pectin. A raw slice of quince tastes like every surface of your mouth is covered with a thin layer of peanut butter, also cider. Poach quince if you want to eat them for non-novelty reasons.) Peel, core, and slice the quince into 1/4 thick pieces. Poach in water until soft. Strain out the quince bits and puree. (Food processor, or mash them like potatoes, or put them through a ricer.) Measure your quince puree.
Now, for every four units of quince puree, you'll need one unit of water and three units of sugar. Make a simple syrup by simmering the water and sugar together in a large heavy pot until the sugar dissolves completely. Add the quince paste. Simmer gently- either on a burner or in a 300 degree oven- for three hours. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Use a long spoon, because somehow the combination of fruit paste and simple syrup results in a lava-like substance that can leap truly impressive distances when disturbed. Eventually, the magma will cook down enough so that the tracks of the spoon are reluctant to fill, and cooling a teaspoon or so of the mixture results in a bouncy, chewy sort of jam. Remove from heat, place into a lightly oiled loaf pan, and let cool. Slice lengthwise once and wrap tightly.
Slices of membrillo are traditionally served with Manchego cheese as a dessert. It would also be good with this, if you hate hard cheese or are actually a vegan. You could also put it on toast. Please be aware that if made according to instructions, the final product will not be spreadable- it's a slicing jam. It's pretty good, aside from the half-dozen burns on my hands. Also, I have seven cups of jam that no one here knows how to eat.
In the past, I've found liquid from poaching fruit makes an excellent syrup- for enlivening assorted dessert items. I thought to make some with the quince poaching liquid- I added a little tuna juice from a failed experiment with prickly pear jam because I didn't want it to go to waste. I cooked the whole thing down with a minimal amount of sugar and poured it into a gravy boat. It set up into the best jam ever, oh my goodness you guys, I want to marry this jam and Thanksgiving gravy can find another container because this one is mine.