I love a good cookery challenge so, when my friend Gylda asked me if I’d like some medlar fruit from her orchard, I jumped at the chance. Most foods are best thrown away when they start to rot, but not medlars. To be eaten or processed in any way the fruit needs to be partially rotted or fermented until its flesh turns soft, sweet, and toffee apple-like. This rotting process for medlars is called ‘bletting’; it’s a word I’d never heard before but I just love saying it. So, first, ‘blet your medlars’ by leaving them spread out in a single layer on a tray or in a box for up to three weeks until soft and squishy. Then, you just have to decide what you’re going to do with them.
You can eat them with a spoon, scooping the flesh straight out of the shell (fiddly), or serve it stirred into whipped cream, custard or yoghurt. Or you can preserve them by making jelly or ‘fruit cheese’ which is delicious cut in slices with cheddar or blue cheese. I decided to make the medlar cheese to serve with our actual cheese course at Christmas. When making jelly, the pulp is usually discarded, the fruit cheese is made from the strained pulp and juice, which is cooked down until very thick and set in lightly oiled moulds.
- Medlars, well bletted – a couple of kilos is enough to make quite a lot of fruit cheese
- Unrefined sugar – use proper jam sugar as bletted medlars are low in both pectin and acid
- Fresh lemon juice
- Flavouring options: Grated fresh ginger – just the juice about 1 tsp. You could also use vanilla paste, cimnnamon or orange zest.
- Put the bletted medlars in a preserving pan or large thick-based saucepan and add enough water to come about third of the way up the sides of the fruit. Don’t overdo the water as you’ll only have to cook it off later. Squash the soft fruit with a potato masher, then bring the mix to a boil. Turn the heat down low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes.
- Tip the cooked medlars into a colander set over a bowl and push the pulp through. Discard or compost the waste. Pass the pulp through a sieve to remove the very last of the seeds using the back of a spoon or a ladle, then weigh the resulting puree. Put it back into your clean preserving pan or a deep saucepan with half its weight in sugar and the juice of half a lemon for every 500g of puree. Add your flavouring: press the grated ginger through a tea strainer so only the juice goes into the mixture or stir in vanilla paste or cinnamon. Bring to the boil and then cook gently for 30 minutes or so. Stir it regularly with a long handled spoon so that it doesn’t catch or burn you, until the mixture turns thick and jammy. If using a thermometer, the setting point for jam is 104.5C. For this, I found I needed to get to about 100C to thicken it properly – it’s like molten lava so do be careful. I undercooked mine the first time and had to reboil it – it needs to thicken and set so it can be sliced.
- Spoon into oiled moulds or a shallow dish, and refrigerate until set. To serve, turn it out of the mould or cut in slices. The “cheese” will last at least a year.
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These are the most straight-forward directions I have seen for how to process medlars. We have a tree full of them and very limited experience with knowing what to do with them! They are even more unusual in the United States than other places. If my attempts come out well, I will post them in 3-4 weeks. Thanks!
Thank you Libby. I must have consulted a dozen or more books and websites to put this together. I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out and the flavour is lovely, certainly as nice as membrillo made with quinces.