Star Anise-Infused Quince Paste (Membrillo)
You've probably seen quince paste, or membrillo, as it is known in Spain and Portugal, in supermarkets and specialty shops. And you've probably ignored it. But you shouldn't. This dark brown jelly like substance is a perfect companion to cheese and charcuterie platters. It offers a sweet and spicy reprieve from all that cream and salt. All DIYers should make membrillo at least once in their culinary lifetimes, and since we have a few farmers in the region willing to give orchard space to this fuzzy fruit, this weekend is the perfect time to give it a shot.
- 1 ¼ lbs quince about 4-5 quince
- 1 pod star anise
- 1 cup Demerera sugar
Wash, peel and quarter the quince. Wrap the peels and cores from the quince in a cheese cloth and tie in a bundle. In a large pot, add quince, star anise, the cheesecloth bundle, and enough water to cover the fruit by ½ inch.
Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Remove the cheese cloth and the star anise. Add the sugar and continue cooking for 1 hour on low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon and breaking the fruit apart with a potato masher. The mixture should get very thick and pull away from the sides and bottom of the pan. The color should be dark red mahogany.
At this point you can cool the mixture and puree in a food processor or blender for a smoother paste, or leave it as is for a rustic, more complex texture.
Line a small sheet pan with parchment paper. With a rubber spatula, transfer and evenly distribute the paste onto the pan. Turn oven to the lowest possible setting – 170 degrees is best (a pilot light will often be enough to complete this task) and dry the paste out for 24 hours; during this time the paste will solidify and deepen in color, it may require more or less time depending on oven temperatures.
Store in the refrigerator for up to one month. Serve with cheese platters and alongside roasted meats and poultry.