Maggie Beer

More about Quince Paste

I had never seen a quince tree growing up in Sydney and when I first came to the Barossa I was selling land for the Dallwitz family and almost every property I visited, even those with  dwellings almost in ruins, there would be a quince tree still standing. I became enamoured of them in all the seasons, in their different forms,  and being so available in the climate I simply couldn’t bear them going to waste and at first put ads in the paper wanting to buy quinces from the locals.  

The first cook was making quince jelly and finding all the pulp of the cooked quince was a by product. That’s when the recipes from Spain and Portugal showed me exactly what to do. They call quince paste ‘Membrillo’, as ever though, I took the principal of it from that culture and made it to suit my palate, which was to use a lot more fruit than sugar, (as opposed to the tradition of 50% fruit 50% sugar) and cooked it long and slow, so that the amazing change that occurs, some enzymatic reaction that takes cooking of quince from light orange to pink to red to almost carmellian, gives such complexity and intensity of flavour. Even though today we cook these in our larger vats in Tanunda -  some 400 kg at a time, I have burns on my arms from the early days when I was the one to scale up from 1 kilo, to 10, to 50 to 200 kg, being the obsessive person I am. After that, having proved we could make it in a large vat, I was happy to stand back and leave it to my team to scale it up for the last time and put all the occupational health and safety codes in, so no one else has to have those ‘badges of honour’ I feel I carry.

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