My quince tree blessed me this year with much more fruit than I was expecting. Because we had such a warm, dry summer, they ripened earlier than they did last year. That meant I didn’t have to fight off the stupid squirrels, as there were still plenty of things for them to eat so they stayed away from the harder to eat quinces. I ended up with 8 large, beautiful, perfect fruits. I picked them and kept them in my house for several days just to make everything smell delicious.
When I was ready to process the quinces, I cored them and chopped them roughly, then weighed the fruit. The final tally was just over 4 pounds of usable fruit — yay! The pieces go in a large saucepan and get just barely covered with water, brought to a simmer, and cooked until soft.
You have two options at this point: strain or blend. A good historical cook will force it through a strainer (or food mill). I have done this. It works. It’s great. It’s period. Do it once. Then, once you’ve gotten it out of your system, pick up your immersion blender and go to town. (Note: don’t put your finger in the blender. Ask me about my scar!)
Once the quinces are fully sauced, it’s time for the sugar: add an equal mass of sugar to the mass of fruit you started with. I do this over low heat, adding a bit of sugar at a time and stirring to be sure it actually dissolves; I have burned my quince paste by not being careful during this step.
Now: cook over moderate heat, stirring pretty much constantly, until the paste thickens. This takes forever. It is tedious. You will wish you had servants. But watch it like a hawk, or it burns. For this amount, I split it into two batches and cooked it in a big heavy skillet. Over time, the water will cook out, the pectin and sugar will do magical things, and the fruit will oxidize to an incredible deep pink hue. You can decide how thick you want the final product to be. I cook it until it’s thick enough that stirring leaves behind defined troughs where the spoon was. You can do it not so thick and can it, like jam, or go super thick and pour it into a baking pan (well greased or lined with parchment), let it cool, and slice it, which is what I usually do. This batch honestly did not get as thick as it should have, but that’s okay.
Quince paste can be eaten with cheese, added to sauces, used as a component in many desserts, or just eaten for its own merits. I like it in — no surprise — tarts.