I made a batch of membrillo yesterday, so I was amused to find quince at the Grand Army Plaza this morning, courtesy of Treelicious Orchards. The quince looks like a cross between an apple and a pear, but it’s usually too hard and too astringent to eat raw. It really benefits from long, slow cooking (with plenty of sugar). If you’re willing to put in the time to make membrillo, it’s completely worth it — although it’s traditionally paired with manchego cheese, if you’re already at the Farmer’s Market go ahead and pair your membrillo with the Womanchego from Cato Corner cheesemakers.
Membrillo is so easy to make it’s surprising to me that more people aren’t making it at home. Maybe it’s the lack of quince, or maybe it’s just that people aren’t sure exactly what it is. Membrillo is basically a paste made of quince; there’s sugar and lemon juice in it, but the main thing is applying heat to the quince, in various stages. This simple application of heat, over a long period of time, transforms a hard, pear-like fruit into a delicious bright orange paste that is traditionally served with cheese, and is also delicious on its own.