I attempted quince cheese last year, but it turned out more like quince concrete, as I massively over cooked it. I had to have another attempt, as I’m sure that if such a place as paradise actually existed, it would smell of ripe quince.
When I attempted to make quince cheese last year, I ran into the same problem that befell the green tomato chutney. I was so focused on following the recipe instructions that common sense went out the window. Since I couldn’t see the base of the pan for a couple of seconds after drawing a spoon through it, I kept on cooking and cooking and cooking. When I finally gave up cooking it, I stupidly put it into jars, rather than into a loaf tin. It set so hard, that it was impossible to get out, and the entire batch, jars and all, ended up in the bin.
I was determined not to make the same mistake this year, but to just use my judgement about when it was ready. I also decided to forgo the jars and put it all into loaf tins, mainly so that if I did over cook it, we’d at least be able to turn it into a sweetmeat; cubed and rolled in icing sugar to turn it into a quince Turkish delight kind of thing.
My main issue this year though, was getting hold of some quince. My source of quince last year has moved house and since she got them from her old neighbour, I figured I wouldn’t be getting any. Luckily for me, my boss at work has a mature quince tree in his garden, so after a quick pretty please, I was handed bag, after bag, after bag. The kitchen has smelt amazing all Autumn.
Quince are quite hard and I find that if I use any of my Global knives to chop them, I get blisters on my index finger. I totally forgot to bandage it up, so naturally I got a big blister. I’m not sure what it is about the knives, but my right index finger does suffer if I have to do a lot of chopping, or chop something hard. One day I’ll invest in some really posh knives, but I have the nagging feeling it’s more a problem of my crappy skin, than the knives.
In a similar fashion to last year, the chopped quince were simmered till soft and then left to sit for a few hours to extract the flavour. After that, the real ball ache of the whole operation commenced, putting the softened quince through a sieve. I really, really need to invest in a mouli, as putting two kilos of softened quince through a sieve is soul, arm and sieve destroying.
I brought the resultant paste up to boiling point and instantly regretted it, as it turned into a pot of hissing and spitting lava. I quickly took it off the heat and added all the sugar, before putting it back onto a heat that was just short of it spitting everywhere. I tried not to stir it too much, but it does have a tendency to catch on the bottom of the pan, so it did get stood next to and stirred occasionally.
So the big question was, when is it done? I knew I wasn’t going to cook it for as long as last year, but when should I stop, I didn’t want it to be too jelly like, firm, with just a bit of wiggle was the aim. I’ve seen quince paste for sale in Gog Magog Farm Shop before and I’ve been bought some quince cheese in a jar, so I knew roughly what the colour and texture should be like. So after some length of cooking, I didn’t note exactly how long, I decided it looked about right and took it off the heat.
As I mentioned earlier, I’d decided not to put it into jars this year, just in case, so the whole lot went into a couple of greaseproof paper lined loaf tins. There was so much, there wasn’t a lot of room to spare. I let it set overnight, then chopped it up into slices, wrapped each slice in it’s own bit of greaseproof and wrapped them all in cling film and put them in the fridge. Next year, I might do a loaf tin and some jars, as the jars would be ideal to give away.
It would appear to have gone down well with the rest of the family. I asked my daughter what her favorite cheese was the other day and she replied quince cheese. My wife has also been scoffing it most lunchtimes and has even made her own batch with some of the quince we had left over. A definite winner!