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Quince Paste

Quince Paste
Laura McCandlish for NPR

This recipe comes from canning maven Linda Ziedrich, author of The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves (Harvard Common Press 2009). The fruit leather-like texture and taste is similar to Mexican guava paste. Go Middle Eastern by adding a whisper of cardamom and rose water. Serve it with blanched almonds on a cheese plate. Pair it with salty Stilton or manchego cheese for a tangy grilled panini. I even topped pizza with the paste and fresh figs.

Makes about 1 3/4 pounds

2 pounds quinces (about 3 cups), quartered but not seeded or peeled

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

Crushed seeds from 7 cardamom pods (less than 1/4 teaspoon), optional

1/2 teaspoon rose water, optional

Combine the quinces and water in a pot. Over low heat, simmer the quinces, covered, until they are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the quinces cool a bit. For a redder paste, let the quinces stand at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

Scoop out the seeds from each quince piece and discard them. Pass the fruit and any juice through the medium screen of a food mill. (If you don't have a food mill, peel and core before cooking. Then puree in a food processor, to an applesauce-like consistency at this stage.)

Put the puree into the pot along with the sugar (and the crushed cardamom, if desired). Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer the mixture, stirring often at first and almost constantly toward the end, for 40 minutes or more. When the paste is ready, you'll have to hold onto the pot to keep it from sliding around as your spoon leaves a clear path across the bottom. Stir the rose water into the paste, if desired.

Pour the paste about 3/4-inch thick into lightly oiled ceramic ramekins or an 8-inch square cake pan with vertical sides. Let the paste cool and then turn it out to dry in a warm place, perhaps in your oven on its lowest setting, or in the sun.

When the paste is dry to the touch, after about 2 hours, cut it into smaller pieces if you like, and wrap the pieces in plastic or waxed paper. Unless you'll be eating the paste soon or you're sure it's thoroughly dry, store it in a heavy-duty plastic bag in the refrigerator, where it should keep for several months.

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