Membrillo is so easy to make it’s surprising to me that more people aren’t making it at home. Maybe it’s the lack of quince, or maybe it’s just that people aren’t sure exactly what it is. Membrillo is basically a paste made of quince; there’s sugar and lemon juice in it, but the main thing is applying heat to the quince, in various stages. This simple application of heat, over a long period of time, transforms a hard, pear-like fruit into a delicious bright orange paste that is traditionally served with cheese, and is also delicious on its own.
I used a few different recipes to make it, mostly this one. You have to start by cooking the quince themselves – I did this by roasting them in the oven, based on another recipe, but I would recommend boiling it instead. I say this because I baked them for an hour and they still weren’t quite soft enough. After cooking them in the oven, I peeled them and chopped them up in my food processor, and then cooked them in a pot with sugar and lemon juice on low heat for about 45 minutes. At first I thought it wasn’t working, because the pale color of the fruit wasn’t changing, but suddenly the mix started turning rosy. Eventually it turned orange. If I had more time (I was kind of in a rush) I would have let it turn even darker, but I pulled it out of the pot and poured it into an oven-safe dish lined with aluminum foil, the baked it in a 250 degree oven to dry it out, for about an hour. Then I let it cool in the oven overnight.
Of course you really shouldn’t eat membrillo without manchego cheese. There’s something great about the combination of the salty, nutty cheese and the sweet, tangy paste that just can’t be duplicated by anything else.