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Mastery Challenge: Apple-Quince Fruit Cheese

Our intrepid contributor Alexandra Jones returns again, with a recipe for apple-quince fruit cheese. This homemade fruit paste (this month’s mastery challenge topic) is the perfect thing to make your holiday cheese board stand out from the crowd! -Marisa

Fruit for apple-quince fruit cheese

I confess that over the past few months, I’ve fallen off the Mastery Challenge train. The contents of my kitchen and the time I have to devote to preserving just didn’t add up. But I’m excited to finish out the year strong with December’s topic: fruit pastes, one of my favorite ways to preserve seasonal fruits.

I canned a spreadable version of the typically sliceable quince paste last month. I had a few more quinces than would fit in my Dutch oven when I made that recipe, and they sat patiently in my fruit bowl while I figured out what to do with them.

sliced fruit for apple-quince fruit cheese

Since I’ll be entertaining friends with a cheese-centric holiday party next week, I decided to combine my remaining quinces with a few apples and whip up a concentrated, sliceable apple-quince fruit paste that would combine both flavors, with this recipe as my framework. And since I’ll be serving this paste with cheese, I’m choosing to call it a fruit cheese, but it’s basically a pate de fruits.

The beautiful thing about fruit pastes is that they’re pretty forgiving. The thing you want to avoid when making jam and jelly — a firm, overly-set preserve — is exactly what you’re going for in this case. It’s also quite easy, as there’s no peeling necessary, thanks to a food mill or fine mesh strainer.

cooked fruit for apple-quince fruit cheese

But there is a trick to it: the goal is to cook down the milled fruit puree until it’s as stiff as possible while still being spreadable, but there’s even a trick for that — if you’ve got a programmable dehydrator or an oven that goes nice and low.

After cooking my fruit till it was thick and mounding, spreading the mixture into a pan, and letting it sit overnight, the paste was still soft and moist. Mine spent several hours in the dehydrator at 150 degrees F, which firmed up the surface quite a lot.

milled fruit sauce that will become apple-quince fruit cheese

However, because the paste wasn’t spread perfectly evenly, some areas were firm on top but soft underneath.  No problem: I put the pan in the fridge to firm up for a few hours, then simply pulled the block paste out of the pan by hand and flipped it over. The pan went back into the dehydrator for a few more hours until the paste achieved a more uniform consistency.

At this point, all that’s left to do is slice and serve with a wedge of something pungent. (You could also cut the paste into cubes or squares, toss them with sugar, and serve as a dessert treat.) I like to pair this paste a cave-aged cheddar, but Alpine cheeses, blues, tangy fromage blanc, and other cheeses will all work with its sweet-tart, slightly floral flavor.

cheese plate with heart shaped apple-quince fruit cheese

While you can simply slice the paste into cubes, batons, or squares, I think this recipe is a great excuse to bust out your cutest cookie cutter. It’s the holidays, after all.

Apple-Quince Fruit Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 apples
  • 2 quinces
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Brush an 8" x 8" pan with a small amount of neutral oil and line with parchment paper. Brush the parchment paper with oil.
  2. Core and roughly slice the fruit. Place slices and water in a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid.
  3. Cover and cook the fruit over medium heat for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the fruit is very tender and falling apart. (The quince will take a little longer to get tender than the apples will.) If the mixture dries out before the fruit is tender, add another splash of water and put the cover back on the pot.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat. Pass the mixture through a food mill or press it through a fine mesh strainer until skins are removed.
  5. Return the fruit puree to the pot and add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for an hour or more, stirring frequently to keep the bottom of the pot from burning. Keep an eye out for when the mixture begins to mound up. You want the mixture to be as sturdy and thick as possible while still being spreadable.
  6. Once the puree has thickened, spread it into the prepared pan, doing your best to achieve a smooth surface and uniform thickness. Allow to dry overnight.
  7. The next morning, gently touch the surface of the fruit paste. If it's still wet or tacky and the paste is soft, put the pan into a 150 degree F oven or dehydrator. Check every hour or so and remove the paste when the surface is dry to the touch.
  8. Press gently around the pan, especially on any areas that may be thicker than others. If the underside of the paste is still soft and spreadable, put the pan into the fridge to cool for an hour or two. Once it's cooled, you should be able to gently pull up the square of paste and flip it back into the pan, soft side up. Return the pan to the dehydrator or oven, checking every hour or so. Remove when the surface feels dry and the texture has firmed up.
  9. Cut into shapes using a knife or cookie cutters and serve with cheeses, or cut shapes, toss in granulated sugar, and serve immediately as a sweet. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
http://foodinjars.com/2017/12/mastery-challenge-apple-quince-fruit-cheese/

 

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How to Make Homemade Quince Butter

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alexandra Jones is here today with a recipe for homemade quince butter. Quince is one of my favorites and I loved this glimpse into her process! -Marisa

quince for homemade quince butter

Quince is one of my favorite fruits to preserve — and where I am in Pennsylvania, it’s also one of the hardest to find.

Luckily, I happened on a farmers’ market in Old City Philadelphia recently where Beechwood Orchards, the only farm I know to offer quince at retail, happened to have a single crate on their stand. After sending out a quick alert over social media — quince spotted! — I promptly bought several pounds.

Peeled and chopped quince for homemade quince butter

It may seem silly to go so wild over a fruit that, when grown in a temperate climate, you can’t even eat raw, although its floral scent will perfume any room in which you stash your fruit. Quince flesh is dry, tannic, and unpalatable until you poach slices in syrup or cook it down with sugar into a thick paste, when it becomes tender, toothsome, vibrant and bright, with that unmistakable floral note.

The traditional way to prepare quince is as quince paste, or membrillo — cooking down the mixture so long with sugar that it becomes a firm, sliceable brick after refrigeration, still tender in texture but more like a fruit cheese than a spread.

quince puree for homemade quince butter

But knowing that I might not come upon quince again for another few years, I decided to find a way to can it, with visions of giving some away for the holidays. It’s delightful to serve on a cheese board alongside aged wedges made the traditional way. I found a Williams-Sonoma recipe for inspiration and set to work.

While parts of the recipe were really out-of-whack — the quince were supposed to redden in 20 minutes, according to the recipe, but this took closer to three hours in my kitchen, and resting the pot off the heat didn’t help redden them at all — I ended up with a dreamy finished product.

pink quince puree for homemade quince butter

It isn’t a chunky jam nor a runny compote, and it’s not a firm-set fruit cheese more reminiscent of membrillo. The best way I can describe it is quince butter — despite the sugar added.

It’s lush, smooth, and stands up on a spoon in a way that’s reminiscent of my favorite long-cooked, no-sugar butters made with sweeter fruits. Spread it on a thick slice of toast with good cultured butter, drizzle it over drop biscuits with whipped cream or ice cream, or spoon an artful dollop onto your next cheese board.

finished homemade quince butter

While it might take a little effort to track down quince in your area, those of you in the northeast may still be able to track some down (I assume you may also have luck in California, though I’m not sure of the fruit’s season out there.) I’ve also seen specimens grown overseas at Asian markets here in Philly. But once you get your hands on some and get a taste , you’ll know if was worth it.

My four pounds of quince cooked down into six pints of supple, rosy butter over a few hours on low heat, but you should be able to halve (or double) this recipe without issue. I canned mine in a mix of half-pints and quarter-pints, perfect for gifting or bringing to a party — or hoarding all to yourself.

finished homemade quince butter

I also swapped out the spices in the original recipe with a few long sprigs of rosemary from my garden. I might add another the next time I make this, hopefully sooner than later.

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Roasted Quince Butter with Warm Winter Spices

A small batch of sugar-sweetened roasted quince butter is a tasty preserve for the fall canning kitchen.

five half pints of roasted quince butter

Back in September when I was in Portland, my mom and I drove out to Sauvie Island for a picnic and a walk. The day was crisp and sunny, and we both felt buoyant and energized by the gloriousness of the day. After we’d eaten, we went for a wander around the antique apple orchard at the old Bybee-Howell House.

A maintenance worker was there raking up the fallen apples. We asked if we could gather a few of the windfalls that were still in good shape (as we’ve been doing for years) and were told that they were headed for the compost and to help ourselves. I filled a bag with bruised but flavorful fruit and was entirely satisfied with my haul until I spotted a single quince laying on the ground amidst the apples.

The blossom end of quince for roasted quince butter

The game had gotten real. I love quince. And this year, they’ve been particularly hard to come by on the East Coast, in large part thanks to the wonky weather we had earlier in the season. So finding untended and unappreciated source for quince was a thrill. My scavenging went from casual stroll to focused searching and my determination paid off.

I finally found the single quince tree. There was a bounty of quince on the ground and I picked up every single one worth salvaging. While I was still in Portland, I made a batch of apple and roasted quince butter, using all the apples and the about half the quince (all that wouldn’t travel well). The rest of the quince? I bagged it up and brought it back to Philly with me for a batch of roasted quince butter.

five quince in a baking pan for roasted quince butter

Because quince is incredibly dense and unyielding when raw, I bake it until soft before I try do anything with it. This step doesn’t fully cook the fruit, it just softens it enough that you can cut into it without fear that the knife will bounce and slice your finger instead. It’s not the right approach if you want to make jelly with it, but it’s wonderful if you are planning to make jam, butter, paste or chutney.

Once it cools down from the oven, I cut away any remnants of the blossom, cut the quince into eighths, dump it into a saucepan, and simmer it with water until tender. Finally, I fit a food mill with its finest screen and push the cooked quince through. When that’s done, you’re left with a dense, fragrant, tart puree that is ready to be cooked, sweetened, and spiced into the preserve of your liking.

a close up of jars of roasted quince butter

For this batch, I opted to sweetened with sugar and spice with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. It is fragrant, smooth, and spreadable. I really like to spread a thin layer on a slice of craggy toasted sourdough and then top it with whispers of a well-aged farmhouse cheddar. Paired with a mug of tea, it’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up (and makes me feel like perhaps I’m traveling in time to a less complicated era).

How have you been preserving quince this season?

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