This compote's Spanish name, letuario, comes from the Latin electuarium, a medicine made from fruit or vegetables conserved in honey or sugar. In medieval times, confectionery and medicine had a lot in common. Just like the quince paste eaten in Spain today, this recipe calls for slow cooking over low heat to concentrate its spiced fruit aroma.
Peel and slice the quinces. Tie half the peels into a cheesecloth or similar loose fabric bundle.
Put the quince slices in an enamel casserole and just cover in water. Add the spices and the bundled skins. Cover and bring to the boil. Cook over a low flame until the quinces are soft. Cooking time will depend on fruit ripeness.
When the slices are ready, uncover the casserole and keep cooking on low heat until the liquid reduces to a syrup. It should be the same succulent reddish colour as the quince flesh, as if it had been cooked in red wine.
Copied by hand in five volumes, Vergel de señores is one of the most important confectionery books in Castilian Spanish. The compilation follows the medieval model, inherited from classical medicine and Arab tracts, with one section on sweets and one on perfumery.See the book