Making pate de coing (or “Quince Cheese”).

If, like me, you’re a bit of a fromagophile (aka cheese nut), then I’m sure you will have discovered the joys of pairing hard, salty cheeses like manchego with quince jelly (or quince cheese as it is sometimes bizarrely called).

It is basically a thick-set marmalade made from the quince fruit (and in fact historically marmalade was made from quinces, and the English word “marmalade” comes from the Portuguese word marmelada, meaning “quince preparation”).

As we live in the centre of the French quince world (the name of our village Cotignac is derived directly from the French word for quince – coing) I thought I should sharpen up my knives and show you how we make what we call “pate de coing”.

It’s dead simple to make.

These quantities make enough for our family for a year:

– 6-8 quinces
– 1 lemon
– Granulated sugar (see below for measurements)
– Water

Peel and cut into small pieces. Peel and core the quinces and cut them into chunks. Quinces are an abominably tough fruit to work with, so make sure your knife is extremely sharp and be sure to protect your fingers from slips. Put the quince pieces in a large saucepan and BARELY cover with water, cover with the lid, then simmer very gently for around three hours until the fruit is soft when poked with a fork. It will have turned a lovely lipstick pink.

Drain the pieces and weigh them, and measure out an equal weight of sugar. Put the quince pieces in the food processor and blitz until you have a paste, then combine the paste with the sugar and the juice and zest of the lemon in a saucepan with a thick bottom (an enamelled cast-iron pan like one from Le Creuset is really useful here).

Simmer the mixture over a very, very low flame, stirring until the sugar has all dissolved in the quince paste. Continue to simmer gently without a lid, stirring every now and then to make sure the bottom does not catch, for about two hours, until the paste is a deep red-brown and your spoon will stand up in it.

Pour into a lightly oiled flat dish with straight sides or plate and leave to dry in an airy space for a few days. After this, turn the mixture upside down and dry it again. Cut up into the size you want and store in a box/tin with greaseproof paper in between the layers.

It is ready for eating straight- away but dries out nicely over time.

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