Quince log

There’s nothing quite like a month away in foreign fields to make you yearn for some home comforts.

Everything in Chengdu was packed with Sichuan pepper and numbed the mouth. I stuck, almost entirely, to an Asian food only diet in Hong Kong. Mmmm MSG. And whilst scran in Australia ain’t so different to over here (no, really, avocado on toast tastes the same whichever hemisphere you’re in), it’s all served with a smile and “this is full of protein so that’s awesome and I’m off for a run now“. Which kind of freaked me out.

More on all of this over the next few weeks. But for now, I need cheese. Good, nay, great, European, unpasteurised cheese. I’ll take some crackers and fresh sourdough on the side. And something sweet to go with it all.

For that, I’ll take a slice of quince log™. Largely because I made one before going away and it still seems totally fine (cling wrapped and refrigerated).

You’ll be aware of quince paste / quince cheese / membrillo. All entirely unsatisfactory names for a fairly awesome condiment – it’s not a paste, nor a cheese, and if you’re making it in England, someone with shiny dark brown hair, olive skin and a disarmingly attractive accent will tell you claremente no es membrillo.

So until something better is suggested, I’m going with quince log™. Not an appealing or appetising turn of phrase. But if you’ve set it in a tin, at least it speaketh the truth. Kind of.

This is a little time consuming, but really very simple to make. Moreover, four quince will set you back around a fiver, but make plenty to keep you and every dinner party / celebratory meal in stock for the entire Christmas and New Year period. Golden.

The trick is to cook the quince for a long time and very slowly – to ensure colour and fragrance. I also use a little less than the traditional 1:1 sugar ratio, as that’s just too sweet for me. Follow the steps below and it should still set like a classic quince cheese – there’s so much pectin in the fruit.

Also, a little tip: I find that the more unattractive the quince (think browning, sticky, fluffy), the more perfumed the cooked fruit is.

This recipe was originally written for Borough Market. More seasonal recipes here.

Quince log™ 

Fills a standard sized loaf tin – which is more than enough for home use and six or seven gifts.

  • 4-5 quince (approx 1.8-2kg)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1kg (approx) granulated sugar

Wash and peel the quince. Put the peel at the base of a large saucepan. Cut the fruit into quarters, then each of those quarters in half across the length – removing the woody core and centre at the same time. Add the cores to the peel, cover with grease proof paper and then chuck in the quince pieces. The grease proof keeps the peel and fruit separated (which makes the next stage easier), but there’s also loads of flavour in the peel and core, so it’s good to cook with that too.

Cover with water, peel a lemon and put the zest in the water. Squeeze then drop half the lemon into the water.  Put more grease proof on top to weigh the fruit down. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook slowly for sixty minutes, until the fruit is turning pink and very soft.

Decant the quince fruit (only) into a food processor or blender, and blitz until the fruit is very soft and smooth. Pass that into a saucepan through a sieve (this may be a little faff, but it’s worth it). Weigh the quantity of fruit, then add 9/10ths of the same weight in granulated sugar (i.e. for a kilo of cooked fruit puree, 900g sugar). Put on a very low hob and stir for a minute or two until the sugar has dissolved.

Cook very slowly for ninety minutes to two hours, stirring occasionally. The quince will turn to a dark shade of orange and thicken. You have to go on colour and feel, really. It’s ready when you recognise that dark orange, but also as you stir the paste comes away for a short time from the sides, and pulling a wooden spoon through briefly separates the paste.

Put your oven on at 50C. Line a loaf tin with cling film then pour the thick paste in. Place the quince paste in the oven for ninety minutes (seems to help it dry out and set). Then remove it from the oven and it cool and harden further overnight.