Membrillo is the quintessentially Spanish jellied sweetmeat that accompanies a chunk of cheese.
4 pounds quince, washed, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
1 vanilla pod, split
2 strips (1/2 inch by 2 inches each) of lemon zest (only the yellow peel, no white pith)
— Granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Place prepared quince pieces in a large saucepan and add water to cover.
Add the vanilla pod and lemon peel and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook until the quince pieces are fork tender (30-40 minutes).
Strain the water from the quince pieces. Discard the vanilla pod but keep the lemon peel with the quince.
Purée the quince pieces and lemon strips in a food processor, blender or food mill.
Measure the quince purée in a large measuring cup. Whatever amount of quince purée you have, that’s how much sugar you will need.
So, if you have 4 cups of purée, you’ll need 4 cups of sugar.
Return the quince purée to the large pan. Heat to medium-low. Add the sugar.
Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice.
Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 60-90 minutes until the quince paste is very thick and has a deep reddish-pink color. Be careful not to scorch.
Preheat oven to a low 125 degrees. Line an 8×8 baking pan or pie pan with parchment paper (do not use wax paper, it will melt!).
Grease the parchment paper with a thin coating of butter. Pour the cooked quince paste into the pan. Smooth out the top of the paste so it is even.
Place the membrillo paste in the 125 degree oven for an hour or longer to help it dry out to the consistency of firm jelly. Make sure the membrillo has set all the way through. Remove from oven and let cool.
To serve, cut into squares or wedges and present with manchego cheese. Take a small slice of the membrillo and spread it on top of a slice of the cheese.
To store, wrap the membrillo in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.