To Make a Paste of......How to Make Fruit Paste

Paste of quince (amber), apricot (yellow) and strawberries (red)

Late last year I started working with making fruit paste. My earliest experiment was a paste made of quince.  Since then I have expanded my experience by making Spanish Marmalade (a truy decadent confection made from dates with powdered pearls and gold leaf), and pastes made from apples, raspberries, strawberries and apricots. The most recent event that I was able to participate in included assorted fruit pastes.

Fruit paste was a very common item to find as part of an Elizabethan Banqueting course. It was a way of preserving a fruit so that it could be enjoyed year round.  Some of the earliest recipes for fruit pastes were made of quinces.  The recipe for Chardequynce below indicates that the past was to be used for the stomach. Sugar was believed to have medicinal benefits, and to "close" the stomach and help with the digestion of food.

Chardequynce         C. 1444

Chardecoynes that is good for the stomach is thus made: take a quart of clarified honey and 2 ounces of powder of pepper and meddle them together, and then take 20 quinces and 10 wardens (a kind of pear) and pare them and take out the kernels and the cores and seeth them in a clean [ale]-wort till they be tender and then stamp them in a mortar as small as thou mayest and then strain them through a strainer and that that will not [go] well through put in again and stamp it oft and oft drive it through a cloth or strainer, and if it be too dry put in half a saucerful or a little more [or wort?] for to get out the other the better and then put it to the honey and set it on the fire and make it seeth well and stir fast with a great staff and if there be 2 stirrers it is the better for both: if it be [not] strongly stirred, it will set [stick] to the vessel and then it is lost; and seeth it till it [be] sodden thick and then take it down off the fire and when it is well nigh cold put in 1/4 ounce of ginger and as much of canell [cinnamon] powdered and mddle them well together with a slice and then let it cool and put it in a box; this manner of making is good, and if it [is] thus made it will be black; if thou wilt make more at once, take  more of each one after the proportions, as much as though list.

Another manner of making and is better than the first: for to put in 2 parts of honey and 3 parts of sugar and then shall this be better than the other, and in all other things do as thou did before, for thou mayest well enough seeth thy quinces in water, and it is good enough though put no wort thereto, and if thou wilt, thou mayest make it without wardens, but it is the better with wardens.

The third manner of making is this, and is the best of all, and that is for to take sugar and quinces alike much in weight, and no honey nor pears and in all other things do as thou didst before, and this whall be whiter than that other, in asmuch as the sugar is white [so] shall the chardequynce be.

A Leechbook, Royal Medical Society MS 136

To make drie Marmalade of Peaches     C.  1587
Image taken from: A.W. A book of Cookrye (1587)

Take your peaches and pare them, and cut them from the stones, and mince them very finely, and steep them in rosewater, then strain them with rosewater through a coarse cloth or strianer into your pan that you will seeth it in: You must have to every pound of your peaches half a pound of sugar finely beaten, and put it into your pan that you do boil it in: You must reserve out a good quantity to mould your cakes or prints withall of that sugar, then set your pan on the fire and stir it till it be thick or stiff that your stick will stand upright by itself, then take it up and lay it in a platter or charger in pretty lumps as big as you will have the moulds or prints, and when it is cold print it on a fair board of sugar: and print thereon a mould or what knot or fashion you will, and bake it in an earthen pot or pan upon the embers, or in a fair cover, and keep them continually by the fire to keep them dry.

A. W., A Book of Cookrye (1587)

To make Marmalade of Damsins or Prunes     C. 1573

TAke Damsins, which ar ripe, boyle them on the Fyre with a lyttle fayre water tyll they bee softe, then draw them through a course Boulter as ye make a tart set it on the Fyre agayne seeth iton height with sufficient sugar, as you do your Quinces, dash it with sweete water. &c. and box it.  If you wil make it of Prunes, euen likewise doo put some Apples also to it, as you dyd to your Quinces.

This wise you may make Marmylade of Wardens, Peares, apples, & Medlars, Seruits or Checkers, strawberys euery one by him selfe, or els mixt it together, as you thik good.

Partridge, John., The treasurie of commodius conceits (1573)

The method that I use to make fruit paste is very simple although it can be quite time consuming to get the paste to the proper thickness and also to dry appropriately.  I have found that the paste can be quite sticky, and I roll it in sugar before serving.  This gives the pastes a very pretty jewel like quality.

I start with 1 cup of applesauce (I have found through trial and error that applesauce contains the correct amount of pectin to set the paste once it is cooked and enough water to dissolve the sugar without adding additional water.  To the applesauce I add from 1 1/2 to 2 cups of prepared fruit.  I then add equal amounts of sugar, or a mix of sugar and honey.

I like to "heat" the fruit, applesauce and sugar mix until the sugar has dissolved. At this point I will puree the fruit in a blender (yay for modern technology), and then strain it through a strainer returning  it to a pan set upon a medium to medium high heat.

Note: The pan you use *must* be non-reactive 

Heat the fruit mixture to 225 degrees F. and continue to stir at this temperature until the paste has thickened to the point that you can run your spoon through it and it leaves a trench behind in the pan.  You will also note at this point when you stir your fruit paste it comes away from the bottom and sides of the pan.  I have had the pastes come together in as little as 30 minutes and a batch that took almost 90 minutes to reach this point.

Once you have reached this point (and not before) pour your paste into a plan that has been prepared with parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray (trust me on this).  I keep my fruit pastes in my oven with the light turned on until they are dry to the touch on top; I then flip them over till the other side dries. This has taken as little as 24 hours and as much as four days--again it depends on the kind of fruit and the humidity.

Once the paste is dry, you can cut it into shapes and roll it in sugar to serve.  OR--you can store it in a airtight container, wrapped in parchment paper and plastic wrap until you need it.  The longer it is stored the dryer it gets.  As near as I can tell, it stores indefinitely, but you should probably use it within two or three months of making it.

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