Friday, 22 November 2013

Medlar Magic

Of all the fruit trees I have planted, my favourite just has to be the Medlar tree. Only planted for three years, it already looks old, with twisting branches and thick, lush foliage. Add to this a wonderful display of simple, white flowers in the spring time followed by a bountiful crop of intriguing fruits.
 



Now, medlars will not be familiar to most people these days, and even fewer will know what on earth to do with one, or for that matter what one tastes like.
So when I tell you they have to be bletted to make them edible, you're probably still none the wiser.
When I explain that bletting is the process of letting them go soft and mushy (almost rotten), you'll probably be well and truly put off... as was I.




I was quite happy just to grow a medlar tree as a curiosity, but when I saw quite how many fruits the young tree bore, I kept thinking just what a waste of a unique resource it would be just to let them rot away.
When I noticed that a few of them had bletted on the tree, I decided to close my eyes and taste. For medlars are supposed to be quite a delicacy. Having said that, I do find that people claim all sorts of food to be just the tastiest, the more unusual, the more trendy.

When I say that I decided to close my eyes and taste, I actually let Sue take the first nibble. Then I followed. The flesh inside the fruit was like an apple and pear paste with a little sweet spice, perfectly edible, quite pleasant but nothing to rave about.

 


But the delight of medlars is, supposedly, when they are turned into a jelly or a cheese.

The folk at ashmeadtrees.co.uk from whom I purchased many of my trees when I first moved onto the smallholding, have the following to say about medlar jelly:

 

Well made medlar jelly is a true delight. It is beautiful to look at – amber with pink highlights and very glossy.
And medlar jelly is joyous to taste; some say it is like sweet cider infused with cinnamon and a touch of allspice. Whatever your adjectives it is utterly delicious, wondrously fragrant and gives a lift to game and cold meats like no other jelly. Add a spoonful to your gravy and you will never be without it again.


Ingredients (for 6 large jam jars)

  • 3 small, sharp apples or 20-25 crab apples
  • 2.5kg bletted medlars(see below)
  • 600g firm medlars
  • 4 lemons
  • 3 litres water
  • 1.2kg granulated sugar

(Optionally, you can add about 20 cloves at the beginning which are removed when you strain. They make the jelly a bit more Christmassy.)

Instructions

* The bletted medlars should be dark and soft before you start. Clean them by removing any stalks and leaves and chopping them in half. Remove any really obvious rotten bits.
* Cut the lemons and apples into quarters (just halve crab apples if you are using those instead). Then put all the fruit into a maslin or large saucepan, such as you would use for jam making.
* Pour all the water over the fruit and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and cover with a lid. Leave to simmer gently for about an hour.



It still doesn't look appetising, but be patient!
* Don’t boil hard, and keep covered so the water doesn’t evaporate.
* Every 10-15 minutes squash the fruit with a wooden spoon. Don’t over squash or stir the whole time as your jelly will end up cloudy (the taste is unaffected though).
* Pour the whole mess into a jelly bag hung over a large bowl. Bathroom taps are great for the job although we have a hook on a beam in the garage. Just let the juice drip into the bowl.
A beautiful juice emerges
* For the clearest jelly, do not squeeze at all. If you leave the bag there for 12 hours, almost all the juice will have run through by itself anyway. (After the juice has run through, you can put the contents of the bag on the compost heap.)

* Measure the juice, which should be clear and a wonderful amber-rose colour, into a suitably sized clean saucepan and boil hard for 6-7 minutes. Then add an equal amount of sugar (which should be about 6 cups or 1.2kg).
* Bring back to the boil and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Boil hard for another 2-3 minutes and test on the back of a spoon for setting.
  1. * When it has just begun to set (medlar jelly is best with a soft as opposed to hard consistency) pour or ladle into sterilised, warm jars and seal. Leave to cool.
If you were a bit nervous about your jelly being too hard, and find that is still has not set the next morning, you can put it back into a pan and boil for 4-5 minutes then return to the jars. When cool, medlar jelly should be smooth and soft and have a lovely gleam to it.

So Sue set to work transforming my offerings from the garden into something delicious. And the bletted medlars slowly changed, step by step, from a fairly ugly and unappetising fruit into a refined and beautiful jelly.

Just look at that colour!
It's not amber, like the website said. It's a rich, velvety purple/pink.

 
We got a leg of pork out of the freezer, specifically so we could try the medlar jelly with it, not that we ever need a reason to roast up a nice joint of pork.
And the verdict?



... absolutely delicious.

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