Membrillo is a thick jam made from quince fruit….think of a very thick version of apple sauce in the form of a nearly-solid brick. My husband and I so love membrillo that quince was one of the first of 30 fruit trees that we planted when we moved to San Diego over ten years ago. Quince is closely related to the family of apples and pears, and like it’s relatives it ripens in the fall. It’s time to make membrillo!
Once a very popular fruit, quince has sadly fallen from popularity in the US. Most Americans (including many foodies) don’t even know what it is, let alone know the incredible confection it can make. Membrillo is thought to have originated in Spain. Many countries in Europe, however, make their own version of a thick quince jam (e.g. France where it is called pate de coing; in Italy it is referred to as cotognata; and the Portuguese say marmelata). Wildly admired in all of South America, it is called dulce de membrillo in the southern hemisphere.
I often serve membrillo with fresh quince for a still-life effect
Membrillo is used both for breakfast and dinner. Served like a jam for breakfast, membrillo is often served with toast in Europe or South America. In the evening, membrillo can appear as an appetizer (manchego cheese and membrillo are a perfect bite before dinner with a glass of cava). Membrillo can also perform after dinner on a cheese tray with roasted nuts and a loaf of a great bread, or substituted in a recipe for any dessert using a jam (think Trifle for the upcoming holidays, a tarte, or even a rustic galette).
This Manchego cheesecake with membrillo topping may grace our Thanksgiving table
Just like any fruit jam, making membrillo requires cooking quince with sugar. Farmer’s markets sometimes have quince this time of year but if you can’t find it don’t despair. The already made membrillo is widely available for sale on the Internet. Or, join Wine-Knows next autumn for one of their two trips to Spain: www.WineKnowsTravel.com.