My father dropped off a bag of quince from his New Jersey orchard and I couldn’t be more thankful! Our young trees produced little fruit while his lovely mature trees provided enough for both of us to each work up a batch of quince cheese. Quince is an apple/pear like fruit with its own distinctive taste- I would describe it as similar to an apple with hints of lemon.
Quince cheese isn’t actually cheese but a paste made from the fruit. It is a time consuming though simply made combination of 50/50 quince and sugar that is processed and allowed to dehydrate over the course of 3-6 months. We enjoy it on its own like a fruit snack, in baked goods or, my favorite, with a cheese platter.
Making Quince Cheese
equal weights of quince and sugar
Wash and cut the quince into pieces leaving skins and seeds in tact. The seeds have a lot of natural pectin in them which is needed to make the hard paste. Remove and discard damaged and bruised areas. Place the quince in a pot with enough water to just barely cover, bring to a boil with lid on and simmer until the fruit falls apart (about 40 minutes depending on the ripeness). Cool for 15-30 minutes so it can be handled.
Scoop the cooked quince into a mesh sieve or if you are lucky enough to have a kitchen aid attachment this makes the task very easy. Strain with the cooking water as much of the pectin from the seeds will have cooked out into the water. After an arm and shoulder breaking session of pushing cooked quince through a sieve with a wooden spoon my father gifted me with a kitchen aid strainer attachment. Amazing piece of equipment!
Return the strained cooked quince to the pot, add sugar, stir and over medium heat bring to simmering. Cook without lid, stirring occasionally until it thickens/jells (it took my batch 90 minutes but this will most likely vary). Caution! it has a tendency to “pop” and splatter, especially as it thickens. The color of the quince will go from a light golden color to a deep reddish copper as it cooks and thickens.
Pour a 1/2 inch thick layer of the hot quince mass into pans. (I used disposable aluminum tins that I use each year and line them with plastic wrap. I am trying one pan with parchment paper this year in my attempt at eliminating as much plastic as possible but won’t know for several months if it works.) If you it cool it will thicken up and not spread nicely.
Place toothpicks into the quince mass, cover with a piece of paper towel making sure it doesn’t touch the mass, place on a shelf where it will be undisturbed and allow to dry for 3 months (until it is a solid cake). My father’s friend said that using a food dehydrator will speed up the drying process considerably though a friend of mine who followed the recipe last year and used a dehydrator and said that the texture wasn’t the same as mine which she preferred.