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Wednesday, May 30, 2012


sukkot hut on a balcony

Photo by: jeffrey gold 
Sukkot Festival, Festival of Booths, Feast of the Tabernacles or Jewish Harvest Festival. This festival concludes the agricultural year prescribed in Leviticus 23 of the Bible. It is celebrated usually during the month of October for eight days. It begins four days after Yom Kippur (the time of forgiveness and pardon) on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Tishri, which does not fall on the same day each year. Temporary booths, huts or sukkot are built with cane, palm leaves, willow branches, hay and/or clusters of leaves. The interior is lined with white cloth and topped with a flat roof. This is done to give thanks for God’s care during the 40 years of wandering in the desert following the Jewish Exodus from Egypt to the promise land of Israel. The booths are decorated with four fruits: palm, myrtle, willow and citron. Observant Jews actually can live in them for the week. In 15th C Spain, when children visited booths, they were given fruit or candy. Today, sukkots are built next to synagogues, in the front or backyards of homes and even on fire escapes. It is a happy folk festival filled with song and laughter. Traditional foods served consist of stuffed vegetables such as eggplants, cabbages and peppers, reflecting a love relationship of medieval vegetarian cuisine and emphasizing the purification of the body, which is actually a reflection of the diet consumed during the flight through the desert. These menus are in contrast today's over stressing ‘sinful gluttony’ for meats during the Middle Ages, which was true of only a very small percentage of people. [Enyc Judaica. 1971:15:SM:495-502; Gitlitz. 1999:256:285; and Misc. Conversations. J. Israel Katz. February 9, 2004]



10-12 quinces
Sugar (see Variations)

Perfect on dry biscuits with cheese and wine.
Photo from:  Life Images by Jill 

1. Wash the quinces and remove the stems and leaves. Put the fruit in a large pot and add barely enough water to cover (see Variations).[2] Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the fruits have become completely mushy and are falling apart, about an hour. Turn the heat off and set the pot aside to cool.
2. Carefully run the liquid and fruits through a fruit strainer into a large pan. Be sure to strain out the seeds and skins.
3. Measure the resulting pulp and then put it into a heavy, clean pan. Add sugar equal to one half of the amount of pulp (see Variations). Stir well. Place over low heat and simmer gently. Stirring often, until the pulp thickens to a consistency between apple butter and jelly, about 30 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and pour into hot sterilized jars. Let cool. Seal tightly. Jars of quince paste may be stored in the freezer for several months.

Add ¼ c cider vinegar to the water in step 1.
Instead of using white sugar, use a combination of white and dark brown sugars or a combination of ¾ white and ¼ honey.
Add more sugar for a sweeter paste.
Add 2 tsp rosewater at step 3.
Add one or both of the following spices to step 3:
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves[3]

[1] It is not known if Jews or Jewish converts used this recipe but taking into account their love for fruit and sweets this is a logical and economical choice as quince is a fruit of autumn. Further, it is a very common product in all Spanish homes.
[2] The original MSS gives two options first: to remove the seeds from 1 lb quinces and boil in 3 lbs honey or second: to boil quinces in water and then add sugar.
[3] The MSS lists advantages of consuming this paste: it relieves adnominal pains; it eliminates bitter taste in the mouth; and wets the appetite. It also obstructs bad vapors rising from the stomach to the brain.


  1. But this is the very familiar and beloved "dulce de membrillo" or "carne de membrillo"! only I should check if the amount of sugar is just the same, perhaps nowadays it is the same weight of sugar than of quinces.
    As you say, it is very common and it is usually packed and sold in large quadrangular boxes in the groceries. It is manufactured specially in Andalusia and some nun convents produce the best quality. Carne de membrillo can be eaten by itself as a dessert or, as you point, together with cheese, specially fresh white Burgos cheese and queso Manchego.
    I think it should make also a nice substitute of chutneys and fruit sauces as a companion for some meats, what do you think?

  2. I prefer today's measurement of equal parts quince and sugar. It's yucky trying to measure the pulp.
    Taking into account medieval love for sweet and sour, quince paste sounds like and excellent novelty to be served with meats instead of chutney, fruit sauces or marmalades.