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The Medlar

posted 9 Jun 2014, 12:19 by Marina - Mark O'Connell   [ updated 22 Jun 2014, 11:31 ]
Middle of November and we picked the medlars – they are not yet quite ripe, or “bletted” but this year I have @ 30 kg and this is quite a marketing feat to sell 30 kg ! so I thought I would start early – familiarise the customers with them ... I think I have a month to sell them all or I will have to make medlar cheese from them – which is a labour of love in itself. Best avoided if possible – my medlar cheese scars have only just healed from last year – it becomes very hot and kinds of explodes at you so you have to cook it wearing tea towels wrapped around your hands.

The Medlar is an ancient English fruit, common in tudor and Victorian times, and it seems very common and much loved in Hungary and Turkey – judging by my customers excitement in London yesterday. I had never realised that I had so many Hungarian customers, but they all revealed themselves with medlars on the stall – with much excited gesticulation and discussion and phone calls to buy some for people at home.

It very pretty, with ladybirds hibernating in it calyx, rusty brown colour, with its own word for ripening – “Bletting” – which I found our is French for ripening or rotting ? So you wait till it is almost rotten soft and brown inside then you squeeze it and eat the pulp from the middle, full of stones that you then spit out. I can best describe it as a tangy apple flavour. It is  referred to as  the “open arse” fruit by Chaucer and Shakespeare, because of its appearance, and  this doesn’t really help its marketing fruit appeal to the masses .. or the middle class of Stoke Newington !

 The reason it was popular in Tudor time I suspect is that it is the last fruit of the season, nothing more till the strawberries come in June, and a few wrinkly apples ... they didn’t import bananas then ... I think every one should start planting them up now as a kind of post peak oil banana or at least start eating them.

Here are some recipes;

 Squeeze the medlars and put in a pan with a tiny amount of water, just enough to make the pulp runny enough to push through a sieve. Cook for just a few minutes and then push through a sieve so that you have the pulp.

Add sugar and cinnamon to taste and then fold in cream, or greek yoghurt and you have “Medlar Fool”

Medlar cheese

The Victorians and Tudor cooked the fruit in some water, sieved it, cooked with sugar until it went very think the same consistency as soft cheese, then the Victorians put it in moulds and served it with cheese and meats as a savoury dish. They used allspice to give it some spiciness. They obviously had more burn resistant hands than I have ! I use @ 700g of sugar to every litre of pulp.

I put this hot in to jars and seal straight away and it will then keep for up to a year if not opened.