Meet the membrillo maker – from Dorset

If you didn't get a chance to read the article about us in the guardian, here is the entire article:

Membrillo is a Spanish speciality. But David Mason set out to prove he could beat them at their own game and produce award-winning membrillo paste

David Mason of Global Harvest: 'I had a hunch that I could make it if I followed my passion and instinct.'

Photograph: James Bowden for the Guardian

Interview by Sue Quinn

I started making membrillo paste after being made redundant from my job as a fine food buyer just before Christmas 2009. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, because it gave me the kick up the backside I needed to begin my journey.

Membrillo is Spanish for quince. The paste is a set conserve, or fruit cheese as they called it hundreds of years ago. Back then, families would gather fallen quince in the orchard and boil it overnight, so that by morning all the natural sugars and pectin would set the fruit firm in the pan. It gave them the vitamin C they needed in winter.

In all the years I worked as a food buyer, Spanish membrillo paste was all we could get. I struggled to find anything similar made by a UK producer. But I had a hunch that I could make it if I followed my passion and instinct. As a kid I had spent hours in the folds of my mother's apron learning to cook. She was an amazing cook and always encouraged me to explore flavours and tastes. But I had no experience making membrillo paste and it was hard work figuring it out. There were lots of burnt pans and my first six attempts failed to set properly.

The UK doesn't produce a consistent bumper harvest of quince, due to our unsettled spring weather and a lack of a prolonged summer. There are a handful of British growers, but they can't supply the volume or consistency of fruit I need, so we buy it in. The main difference between our membrillo and the Spanish version is the way it's cooked and some of the ingredients. Spanish paste is very granular and firm, almost cake-like. Ours is soft- to medium-set, and smooth, without pith or any granular texture.

In the early days, I cooked it all by hand in my kitchen at home. I sold the membrillo paste to local chefs, who loved it. Quince marries particularly well with cheese, because of its delicate, sweet and floral flavour. But it's not only great for cheese boards – chefs serve it with chicken and meat dishes, too. We now supply chefs, hotels and restaurants all over the UK, including Adam Handling at The Caxton Grill in London, James and Chris Tanner of Tanners Restaurant in Plymouth and Michelin-starred Russell Brown at Sienna Restaurant in Dorset. We also sell to Qantas, Harrods and Selfridges.

The company is now in a very happy place. All of our products, except two that are being judged this year, have won Great Taste awards. We now have six flavours – quince, fig, pear, damson plum, caramelised apple and mulled spiced apple – with plans for more than 25 more. I'd like to think we're now giving the Spanish a damn good run for their money.


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