Late October brings an interesting addition to stands heaped with orange squashes and red apples at the Greenmarkets in New York: a strange green fruit, seemingly under-ripened, knobby and oddly leathery, with just the faintest, unidentifiable smell of sweetness. Few farmers carry this elusive fruit, and finding one is an annual mission of ours. The fruit is quince, or membrillo. Despite its green-apple façade, quince is not a fruit to be eaten raw. It’s hard and unpalatable. Sour, even. So why the annual mission, you might ask? Because when you cook down a few pounds with some sugar, this otherwise foreboding fruit is magically transformed into a succulent, malbec-red dulce de membrillo, or quince paste. Cut a corner and eat it with machego or something sharp, like cheddar, and heaven! A little bite of Argentina we can’t ever get enough of. En fin. An October tradition we’d be only too happy to repeat in March, as our batch never lasts much past the New Year.
The lovely thing about membrillo is you can make a big batch of it, stick it in the fridge, and it's there, at the ready. A cube of membrillo, a sharp cheese, a nice cutting board and voila! A show-stopping hors d'oeuvres - sweet, biting, beautifully holiday-colored - that requires a little foresight and practically no work on party day!
If you’re feeling ambitious, hold on to the peels and cores and make jalea, or jelly. It’s delicious swirled into yogurt or hot breakfast cereals, or on pancakes. We’d bet it make for interesting fall cocktails too, given its syrupy consistency! —yclaraquesi