Quince Paste With Ginger, Cinnamon & Allspice
The first time I ever had a thicker-than-jam fruit paste with cheese, it was the Caribbean “pasta de guayaba” or guava paste eaten along with Puerto Rican “queso blanco” offered to me in a college classroom as a sort of culinary culture lesson. And I'm sad to say, it grossed me out. My fault, really. I still had a closed mind about tasting new things and super thick jam with cheese was just too weird for me. Never mind that I’d eat a cream cheese & jelly sandwich in a heart beat. Fast forward over my Spanish experience of hospitable force-feeding at the hands of Mrs. Gutierrez where I had no choice but to start liking all matter of “weird foods”: olives, yogurt, dates, calf’s brains (well, I actually never took to calf's brains), and I’m now a full-fledged member of the non-picky eater community.
These days I love fruit pastes with cheese or with meat, for that matter. In a couple weeks, we’re invited to Geneva for a seasonal dinner of “la chasse” in other words, wild game and those strong “gamey” flavors work really well next to something pungent, sweet and sour. I'm going to another part of the Spanish-speaking world for that: Since the tropical guava is not available in Spain and Argentina, those countries are famous for "membrillo", a fruit paste made from quince.
Quinces look like big, fuzzy misshapen apples. You have certainly seen them in any number of Renaissance still life paintings. They are hard as rocks and must be cooked before eating if you don’t want a mouthful of acrid, sandiness. Cooked, however, they are just lovely! I found a great recipe for quince paste at Beyond the Bland. This particular recipe is unique because it suggests you bake the whole, unpeeled quinces for 2 hours until they’re soft and their skin peels right off. Other recipes I’ve used in the past have you trying your best to get the thin peel off the bumpy surface and then trying to slice the rock-hard flesh to get the seeds out. It’s as bad as dealing with fresh pumpkin! I consider this new way a god-send since it gets the peeling and seeding job is done with minimal effort. I took some of Beyond the Bland's suggestions and left others. I got nice, soft quinces after 1 1/2 hours of baking at 350 F. They suggested using an oven mitt to protect your stirring hand from the hot splatters. I fortunately had no hot splatters but it's a great idea anyway. I followed their stirring instructions to the letter. My ingredient list looks like this:
3 large quince apples
1 cup sugar
1/4 in piece of ginger, finely minced and crushed with the side of the knife
1/4 tsp ground true cinnamon (Mexican)
1/4 tsp allspice
Well, after pouring out the membrillo into a greased, rectangular bread pan and licking the spatula, I have to say this is delicious! Music to taste membrillo by: The release "Pure Guava by Ween. I just hope I got it thick enough. Time will tell. This will hopefully add a nice sweet/sour note to our game dinner.
**New Ideas: I think next time I might just add some savoury spices as well to make a hybrid, fusion Spanish/Indian membrillo/chutney. Imagine this: to the ginger, cinnamon and allspice, add some ground red pepper, cumin and coriander. Pair that with a slice of venison... Mmmm...