Belle Jar Canning

for the passion of preserving food

Membrillo Paste {after a hurricane}


I could call this Hurricane Sandy Membrillo.

This devastating hurricane that left so many homeless, unemployed, hungry, cold. Changed. Sort of in limbo for the first few days after, in shock here in southern New York and down the New Jersey coast, all along the east coast. A category 1 hurricane does not usually pose such an enormous threat, grateful our state leaders were warned with accurate and convincing voices of the magnitude of this storm system. Still, I have friends who have lost their homes, pets, businesses, everything.

We had limited power for 7 days in our area. Limited because we have a generator for half of the two family house we are in, due to different electrical zones our side is not hooked up to it. Running the generator sparingly (about 5 hours the day) allowed us to have some water (we’re on a well) and some heat and one extension cord we brought in and occasional internet service, and my gas stove. It wasn’t tragic for us. The world around us had power, I wanted to stay home and hunker down, cook all the thawing food.

Quince were waiting.

My artsy quince photo.


Quince are a fantastic fruit cultivated in Europe more widely than North America. Not usually eaten raw, it’s very astringent, though in warm climates where the fruit is allowed to ripen to it’s mature state of  yellow on the tree, it will be less so and even sweet. Quince are very high in pectin, beautifully aromatic and cook into a sweet, unusual, lovey taste.

Membrillo paste is the most famous use of quince. It’s a Spanish treat traditionally served with Manchego cheese. There are recipes for quince butter, quince jelly (I made a Persian quince jelly last season with rose water and cardamom), quince jam. It mixes well with many other fruits for preserves, can be poached and baked into pies and cakes. Quince are quite versatile. I’m most fond of Membrillo though, essentially a quince butter allowed to cook down until it forms a very thick fruit paste (not fruit jellies, that contains gelatin or a gelatin replacement). Membrillo is an easy recipe requiring lots of arm power and time.

I used a lot of quince (12 pounds) for a sheet pan full of Membrillo, I have a huge copper preserves pot. I’m giving you a base recipe that you can then change accordingly. Since quince are so high in pectin the amount of sugar you use is personal, but you do need some, it highlights the cooked quince flavour and helps with the ‘set’. The rule of thumb in recipes circulating seems to be 1 cup sugar to 1 cup of quince puree, I used much less, 4 cups of sugar to 9 + cups of puree (I didn’t really measure).

I made this over a three day period, stopping where I wanted and putting my preserves pan, covered, in the garage (being the coldest place in the house during the power outage period). It’s FINE to do so! I found there was only so much stirring I was willing to do in a day.

Membrillo Paste

5 lbs quince, halved, cored, then cut into chunks

1 vanilla bean, split open

3 tablespoon lemon juice

pinch of salt, for highlights

sugar, based on amount of puree you get and taste.

{I prefer organic sugar to conventional. I don’t know about using honey, but I think it won’t give the proper set as it’s adding extra liquid and doesn’t react with pectin the way cane sugar does. Coconut Palm Sugar might work here, for a low glycemic alternative, it doesn’t taste like coconut, however it does have a different taste than sugar}.

Place quince chunks in a large stock pot with an inch or two of water on the bottom. Cover and bring to a boil, then remove lid to allow the steam to escape. Stir, if the water level boils down before the quince begin to soften, add a cup or more to the pot, lower the heat so the quince are simmering. Repeat this process until the quince are falling apart soft. Keep in mind you will be boiling all the liquid out of them, so don’t add too much water, it ups the cooking time (which, by the way, is a looong time).

{I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of this point, I started at night and had no power, just candle light. Then I put the whole pot, with a lid on, in a cold place over night.}

Once the quince have broken down, use an immersion blender, or ladle quince in batches into a food processor, and puree until sooth.  Measure out puree back into your pot or, preferably, a wide preserves pot (if using copper add the sugar first) or enameled dutch oven, over high heat. Add scraped vanilla bean seeds, lemon juice and then sugar at about 1/2 cup per cup of puree (or a bit less or more, depending on your taste), add a pinch of salt, stir to blend, bring mixture to a boil. Once at a boil, turn heat to medium and stir. This is the ‘work’ part of membrillo, stirring. And stirring. Hold a book in one hand and a long rubber spatula in another.

The Membrillo in this picture has been cooking over medium heat for hours (I made a lot), yours will too. It’s difficult to judge the time, you are looking for colour change, texture change, thickening and it WILL happen, honestly, I can’t say when. The first time I made Membrillo I did not let it cook long enough, and followed some recipe that told me it was OK to microwave it if it doesn’t set. What a pain. I swore I’d never make it again.. but yet, it was so good once I got it right. PATIENCE. There is no need to microwave it. Just patience and stirring. It will splatter all over, you can pour some oil onto a paper towel and rub your stove (and walls and counters) down, that will help in clean up, it’s far easier to clean oil than hardened Membrillo.

Thicker! Keep going, keep stirring! Don’t stop now! Unless you need a break, then let it cool, cover it and put it somewhere cold until you have more elbow power. You may have to scrape the paste back into the food processor if you do stop for a while, as it will form a crust that wont incorporate well (immersion blender won’t work at this point, it’s too thick).



ALMOST! Keep at it..


A few minutes more.. finished!

Oil  an 11 x 9 baking/ roasting pan or a baking sheet (with a mild flavored oil such as sunflower), scrape paste into the pan smoothing with an oiled spatula (there’s a ‘sticky’ theme here). Cover with plastic wrap then place in a cool spot to set.

This is as smooth as I could get it, and it’s fine.

Let it sit for a day, once it’s firm to the touch check for set by lifting a corner with a rubber spatula, if it’s lifts easily check the other edges. {If it seems soft and kind of gooey still you may need to put it in a 175* oven to help dry it out, 15 minutes at a time,  like a giant fruit leather, then cool it completely again. If you have to do this it’s a good sign that it wasn’t cooked enough on the stove.} Line a baking sheet with an ample amount of plastic wrap, letting it hang over the sides.

Flip the Membrillo into the new baking sheet (or roasting pan), cover with plastic and let this side dry out over night. If there is any moisture, it will collect, making what is now the bottom of the paste a little wet.

When the Membrillo feels completely set and you can slice a chunk off to eat, (which  I hope you’ve been doing all along anyway, because you have to taste this) it’s DONE!  Flip the whole Membrillo out onto a parchment covered surface, it will be a little moist, let it air dry for a few hours. Using a straight edge, cut into squares or rectangles, wrap them in parchment paper and store in the fridge for a long time.

Your holiday party invite insurance!

See the colour?!


This makes a beautiful and memorable gift! Just make sure you keep enough for yourself.

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Author: Tamika

Creating Life

8 thoughts on “Membrillo Paste {after a hurricane}

  1. I’ve never had membrillo paste, but it looks so good!

  2. Nice job, Tamika! I made mine this time last year and it was indeed an arduous task. Yet I was still serving it with manchego biscuits in September at my paella party! So worth it.

    • Thank you so much! Mmm. Manchego biscuits. I may have to make some, gf of course… sounds delicious. Last year I swore I would never make membrillo again.. this year I had time, and patience.

  3. Hi Tamika: how did you wrap you membrillo squares – it looks so professional and fun at the same time. I make membrillo, but haven’t discovered a way to attractively wrap it. Your method caught my eye. thanks for your post@

    • Hi,

      I wrapped it in sections of parchment paper. You can use wax paper as well. A little string around it, the key tags are a nice addition too.
      Thanks for stopping in to look!
      Take care,

      • Thanks for your quick reply. How do you create the band of parchment ? Is it a separate piece, taped on the bottom? That, along with the simple tag and string, make the packaging so attractive.

  4. Hi one more thing, is your jam pan about 15 qt or even larger at about 20 qts? I have a 15 qt and a quince tree with lots of fruit so I may go with your original amount depending on the size of your pan relative to mine. Thanks!

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