We had another good harvest from our medlar tree this year. This is my favourite tree in the orchard with its spreading, gnarled branches bearing fantastic white blossoms in the spring followed by the most unusual fruits. In fact, I like the tree so much that I've planted another five, even though I don't really need them.
One of the great things about growing your own food is that you get to taste things which are just not available in the shops, medlars being an excellent example of this.
Medlars are probably most well known for the need to 'blet' them, which basically means letting them begin to rot. But this is not as disgusting as it sounds.
There are two choices here - either pick them early and store them until bletted or, what Sue and I do, let them blet on the tree. The weather has been a bit funny this year (isn't it every year?) and things have been slow to ripen. Quite a few crops just didn't quite make it before a decidedly damp November led to them rotting off.
So we held off on picking the medlars. Other things got in the way too. Last year I'm pretty sure the leaves were still on the tree when we picked them, but this year the leaves have well and truly gone.
This last weekend I noticed that the fruits were much thinner and on closer inspection most of them had fallen onto the ground. There they lay on the leaf litter, nicely bletted.
Basically each medlar fruit looks like a giant brown rosehip, each containing seven stones. What's not stone is a spicy, aromatic, peary, apply mush. That's the best way I can describe it.
I collected just over 100 fruits from the tree and more than 300 from the ground. I left some windfalls for the birds and insects.
In all they weighed 10.2kg.
Sue makes an amazing medlar jelly which does not involve the need to extract the flesh from the fruits. She basically boils them up with a couple of apples for pectin until mushy and then strains them through jam bags.
To keep the liquid perfectly clear, it is important not to press the fruit mush but just let the juice drain. The juice then gets turned into an amazingly pink-hued jelly. It's a popular seller, but we like to keep a fair bit for ourselves.
In theory, the left-over pulp can be used to make chutney, but this would mean extracting all those stones. Besides, we have chutneys of various descriptions coming out of our ears!
This year we were keen to expand on our medlar repertoire and Sue found a recipe for a ginger, medlar and apricot cake. Only problem was that it required 250g of medlar flesh and it fell to me to extract it. Normally this would have been a doddle as I have a mouli which I use for making things like tomato passata, but this was not an option because of the stones. I tried pushing the medlars through a sieve, but the sieve was not strong enough and the holes not big enough. Eventually we ended up impovising with a metal steamer. It was a long, messy job though. The resulting mash did not look appetising but the aroma was beautifully spicy and exotic.
Sue took her 250g of mashed medlar which was a very small proportion of the 3+ kg I had prepared. The rest was portioned up and frozen, so there'll be no need for more medlar mashing for quite some time.
The cake, unsurprisingly, tastes amazing. And I won't be sharing it in case you're wondering.