Manchego cheese with quince paste or queso manchego con dulce de membrillo, also known as quince cheese is a very popular Spanish way to enjoy one of our most famous cheeses. You will just need to get the best Manchego cheese you can find and make your own quince paste at home.
We still do not make Manchego cheese at home —yet— and most Spaniards would buy the quince paste at cheese shops or markets also, however, there is always someone who prefers to make it at home because it is more delicious and devoid of any additives or preservatives.
Membrillos —Cydonia oblonga— and sugar are the must-have ingredients to prepare a luscious and silky block of quince paste, also known in Spain as carne de membrillo which literally translates as quince meat.
The method of cooking may vary depending on the recipe but basically, you can follow any jam recipe and get a successful result. The oldest recipes start by cooking the quinces in water, then strain and puree the pulp. Afterwards, the pureed quince is further cooked adding from 100 to 125% of its weight in sugar.
We prefer to make the process easier and the result less sugary: the quince is macerated in sugar to obtain a syrup and extract as much pectin as possible from the pulp, seeds, core and skin. Then the mixture is cooked with some lemon juice and made into a puree. Finally, the paste is passed through a sieve to make it finer.
- 3 pounds (1360g) quince
- 2 pounds (907g) sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- A generous pinch of salt
- Manchego cheese
- Cut the quinces into fine wedges leaving skin, core and seeds as those parts are the richest in pectin.
- Put them in a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Cover with a kitchen cloth and let it rest for at least eight hours. The longer the maceration the better.
- After the macerating time, you will end having a syrupy quince with a lot of pectins. Pour that mixture into a double-bottomed casserole, add the lemon juice, salt, and boil over medium heat.
- Turn the heat to low as soon as it starts boiling and let it cook until the quinces are tender enough to be blended.
- Pass the quince mixture through a sieve or chinois to puree it and remove cores and seeds.
- Return it to the pan on low heat and cook until the texture gets thicker.
- Finally, ladle the paste into the desired molds and let it cool to room temperature or until solid.
- Unmold it by passing a knife or spatula all over the edge of the mold or submerge it into a hot water bath so that the quince paste comes off the walls of the mold.
- Wrap the membrillo paste with parchment paper or plastic film and keep it in the fridge for at least seven days to cure.
- Cut the manchego cheese into wedges and then into triangles, remove the hard rind and serve it along with the quince paste, some toasts or crackers.
Tips for a perfect tapa of manchego cheese with quince paste:
- We recommend you to wash the quinces with a brush under running water, eliminate any blemishes and quarter them before weighing on a scale. The rate of sugar in this recipe can vary from 75 to 100% of the weight of the already-cleaned quinces.
- You can use a terrine mold to set the paste. Also, make a beautiful quince cheese by molding it in several mini bundt pans, or in molds of different shapes as we have done this time… Your tapa’s table will be so fancy!
- We’d rather not define any cooking time as it may vary depending on the quality of the fruit.
- Better choose not so ripe quinces as they tend to have more pectin than the riper ones.
- Do not fret if you do not get a burgundy reddish color quince cheese. In Spain you can mainly find two varieties of quince cheese: one of red color —those of poor quality can even have artificial color— and another one of dark brownish orange color. Both are equally common.
- Ancient recipes from the 18th century did not include lemon juice, however, the acidity along with the cooking time process might help to get a more reddish color, stabilize the sugar avoiding crystallization and enhance the final flavor.
- In the markets in Spain quince paste can be purchased garnished with nuts, with orange, with apples and even those made with fructose. Be creative and make your own formula.