Quince Cheese and Plum Cheese with…er…Cheese

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I’d never really thought much about quinces until I got interested in cheese and then it seemed I couldn’t move for falling over a sticky chunk of membrillo. I was desperate to try and make some last year but never managed to track down the elusive quince. When they came back into season this year I searched high and low but there wasn’t a quince to be found anywhere in southwest London. Finally, I gave up and decided to make a version with plums instead but just as I hauled my shopping bag of fruit onto the table an email pinged in from Linda at Mrs Portly’s Kitchen, who was in London with some Suffolk quinces in need of a home. A mad dash across London later and I was the proud owner of half a dozen beautiful golden quinces (many thanks, Linda!)

quince cheese membrillo

The quinces were lovely and smelt strongly of what I thought was pineapple and Linda thought was more like mango. I spent the next day sniffing them and forcing unsuspecting visitors to do likewise. They seemed a remarkably exotic fruit to be growing in a British garden. At the risk of getting all food-porny, they are an undeniably sensuous fruit, all perfumed and big-bottomed.

Apparently they were imported to the Britons by King Edgar in c.950 and would have once been a common fruit. It may be all about the membrillo now but as far back as medieval times we islanders were making stiff pastes of quince known as charedequynce – and apparently cheese-and-quince dumplings too which I’ve got lined up for the blog this time next year. It’s a bit sad that these days I could have bought everything from passion fruit to papayas imported from all over the world but couldn’t get a native, seasonal quince to save my life.

Charedequynce eventually became known as quince cheese – and other fruit cheeses were popular too. There’s nothing actually cheesy about them apart from the fact that you can slice them – and, of course, they pair beautifully with cheese too, hence why they are allowed to feature on this blog.

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Both plum and quince cheese are essentially made in the same way. For the plums, I washed them and simmered them in a little water until the flesh was soft and fell from the stones into a pulp. Similarly, I washed the quinces and rubbed off the slightly hairy coating and then chopped them up, skin, cores and all and boiled them until they were a soft pulp. I then pushed the pulp through a sieve into a bowl; you can also used a mouli and I’ve heard of people just sticking it all into a food processor but that wasn’t an option as one of my children has managed to dismantle mine and lose a vital part.

plum cheese

Weigh the resulting pulp and add the same amount in granulated sugar, plus a squeeze of lemon juice. Boil the mixture in a pan until it is thick and sticky; when you pull the spoon along the bottom of the pan and it leaves a trail, it’s ready. This may take as long as two or three hours depending on how wet the fruit is.

You can store the cheeses in jam jars but I wanted to be able to serve them and so finally found a use for the many small glass dessert pots that I’ve been hoarding for years; the ones with straight sides are ideal. Lightly grease the inside with a little olive oil to make the fruit cheese easier to remove and then put them in a low oven to sterilise whilst you wait for the pulp and sugar to thicken. Ladle the mixture into the jars and then pop them back into the low oven for a few hours – this will help to harden them up. If you want to remove them from the moulds, just prise it back from the glass with your fingers and then run a blunt knife around the sides.

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Membrillo is traditionally paired with Manchego so I tried my quince cheese with a slab of Berkswell, a hard sheep’s cheese described by the cheesemonger as ‘fruity’. Interestingly, Berkswell is often said to have tasting notes of pineapple and it certainly tasted fantastic with the quince. Plum cheese is said to pair well with blue cheese and so I ate it with some Stichelton, which was also a great match. I also tried them both with some Lincolnshire Poacher because, well, it was an excuse to eat some more cheese.

I’d be really interested to know about other fruit cheeses people have made – and about the cheeses you’ve paired them with too.

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25 Comments

Filed under Cheese Recipes

25 responses to “Quince Cheese and Plum Cheese with…er…Cheese

  1. Looks wonderful! The second plum post I have read about today. I really am going to have to revisit the plum!!

  2. So happy to see the quinces went to a good home – and both of your cheeses look delicious. I must have a crack at the plum next year when hopefully our orchard will be a bit more productive (other than the quince tree which has fruited its little heart out). I think redcurrants would make a good cheese too, though I haven’t tried it yet and you would need industrial quantities. L x

  3. In Brazil we have goiabada which is like quince jelly except made with guava. It is popular at breakfast with soft cheese.

    AV

  4. Look lovely. I’ve made damson cheese and blackberry cheese this year, which both went very well with some honking blue cheese, as well as a good sharp cheddar. The main thing I found was not to cook as far as most recipes suggested, as it made them set like rubber.

  5. Also, if you get bored of eating them with cheese (as if) you can cut them into squares and roll them in icing or caster sugar, maybe mixed with citric acid, for a nice Turkish delight/pastille style sweet. Doubles their Christmas present potential!

  6. I didn’t realise it was so easy to make membrillo and indeed the most difficult part is actually getting hold of the quince. I did notice the other day that one of the little grocery shops, in that parade next to the Streatham Odeon had a boxful on sale… I usually buy my membrillo from Sainsburys and always feel that it may have a hint of saffron in it which I love!

    • Saffron does sound good! I did think about those shops actually but didn’t get a chance to go to the wilds of Streatham 😉 I have a mountain of the quince stuff if you’re near Tooting and fancy some 🙂

      • Thanks so much but I just have too much on at the moment which sounds ridiculous, I know!! Quince are obviously in the midst of a revival – popped in to Borough Market and there were baskets of them at various stalls then wandered by the Mediterranean grocers at my end of Streatham Hill and there they were too!!

  7. I love fruit cheese! My mum used to make it with blackberries (until the neighbours complained about the massive bramble-y hedge and it was cut down) and she still makes it with damsons – delicious! I definitely want a go at making it! Yours looks delicious – are quinces like pears or more fleshy?

  8. I saw a recipe for a quince cake at the weekend and noted that you never see them for sale anywhere. Maybe it’s something you have to grow yourself . . .

  9. I really need to try Quince again. Perhaps the ones I’ve had are too astringent or old, but it always hits my taste buds in the wrong way. Suggestions where to shop?

    • Shop-wise, you can sometimes find it in Middle Eastern shops or markets. If it’s made into paste it shouldn’t taste astringent because of the sugar. Or I think you can add it to tagines and the like. Apparently they are foul raw though.

  10. Pingback: Fromage Friday: Fosse Way Fleece | Fromage Homage

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