Fruit Cheese is a traditional British paste of sweetened fruit puree, cooked into a solid, sliceable preserve which is often served alongside cheese, or cut into cubes, rolled in sugar and served as a sweetmeat. Many autumn fruits can be used to make fruit cheeses, with crab apples, damsons and the wonderfully fragrant quince fruit being popular choices.
The traditional method for making a fruit cheese would be to simply wash and chop up your whole fruit, cook with a little water to a puree, which you would then pass through a sieve, before adding an equal weight of sugar. Having spent hours trying to sieve fruit puree in the past I decided to take the more convenient approach of peeling and coring my fruit before cooking, so that I could simply puree my fruit with a handheld blender once it was ready.
I used about a kilo of fruit, juice of 2 lemons and about 750g of caster sugar.
You can see from my photo that the quince fruit browns very quickly after cutting – even when you toss it in lemon juice which I had done here.
Although most recipes call for you to use an equal weight of puree and sugar, I reduced ours by about 25% as I prefer my finished product to be a little less sweet. Add the sugar to your puree and cook over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, at which point you have two choices. The first is to continue to cook, stirring frequently until the paste darkens and becomes so thick that you can see the base of the pan for a couple of seconds after you have passed the spoon across it (this will take a good hour or so). This is the method to use if you want set your fruit cheese in a mould or jar.
I use an alternative method as I have an Aga which is always on, so for me it makes much more sense to finish it in the oven. I lined a brownie tin with cling film, spooned my puree in and stuck it in my cool oven which runs at about 130C. I gave my mixture about an hour in there at which point it was firm to touch on top, so I removed it and flipped it over onto a fresh piece of cling film and returned it to the oven for another 30 minutes or so to give the underneath a chance to firm up. As you can see our quince cheese developed a beautiful dark red colour during this time. Once your quince cheese is firm to touch leave to cool and finish setting before cutting.
To turn your quince cheese into pate de fruits simply cut into cubes and roll in caster sugar before serving as a petit four.
Quince cheese is said to mature over time, and benefit from being stored in the fridge for a month before using. Stored in the fridge it should keep for many months.