Saturday, 10 December 2011

Medlar Jelly

Just been making medlar jelly, having cooked, strained and filtered all my fruit in several batches. The fruit was well bletted, so I doubt that there was enough pectin left in the fruit to make a good set, so resorted to using a little pectin just to make sure. If making a butter (just pushed through a sieve, rather than a jelly bag, probably no need to add any pectin, as the thickness of the fruit pulp gives enough body to the paste

Medlars (as many as you have as they don't make a great quantity of jelly)
Stick of cinnamon (if liked)
small orange
2 lemons

Add boiling water to medlars, just enough to cover them. Add a small orange, cut into halves or quarters and a stick of cinnamon. Bring to boil, then turn down the heat and cook for another 40 minutes.
Strain the pulp through a coarse sieve into another pan. You can boil up the remaining coarse pulp again if required, especially if you don't have a great quantity of fruit. Take the strained pulp and strain again using a jelly bag, leaving it overnight.

Measure the filtered liquor and add 700g sugar per litre. Squeeze the two lemons, and strain the juice through a tea strainer. Add pectin and bring to a boil (we used one sachet to 2 litres of liquour). When you think it has reduced enough, test it by cooling a drop of jelly on a saucer. When the cooled jelly starts to develop a skin, it is nearly ready, but leave a little bit longer to achieve a good set. (Alternatively, use a jam thermometer to the setting indicated on the scale if not familiar with jam making).

At the same time sterilise jars and lids in the oven until hot. Ladle jelly into jars, taking care to avoid any scum that inevitably forms during boiling. Fill as near the top of the jar as you can, and screw lids on tightly while jelly is still hot.

The flavour is rather like quince, but more robust, with just a hint of tannin, enough to make it dual-purpose as a desert or meat accompaniment. We've found it quite hard to get completely clear jelly, even with a jelly bag some particles seem to get through.

Friday, 2 December 2011


This is the first time we've ever just sat down and eaten medlars as desert properly. Crops up to this point have either been so small we've just jammed them before fully ripe; the last couple of years I haven't picked any due to illness, which always seems to strike this time of year. I have casually snacked on them, but usually with my mind on other things. The box of hard fruit I picked last week had all 'bletted' in that time, and were completely soft and brown.

They really do taste very good. I know that they really defy description, but the nearest thing in flavour and texture is a fresh date (the very soft Iranian kind, rather than the dried variety, which are much sweeter). We eat them with Bamm dates and Brown Turkey figs, and the flavours went very well together. They have a taste of their own, with a slightly winey quality. They are slightly annoying to eat, they cant really be picked apart with cutlery, so the soft contents have to be sucked out, along with the 3-4 enormous stones.

I don't know what the size of crop was in weight, but it filled two fruit boxes.

The variety I grow is Nottingham; which isn't credited with having a good flavour in many books, but looking at the descriptions of the few available varieties at Keepers Nursery, Hamid Habibi considers it to have a good flavour, though prone to cracking (which I've never had a problem with); I would agree that they have a very short shelf-life once they begin to ripen, but then there's probably a limit to how many you want to eat fresh once the novelty has worn off. They do however make a very nice fruit butter (esp. with a little added cinnamon) and a good base jam for adding to deserts like pear frangipane or Bakewell tarts. I recently came across a recipe for medlar tarte, made with butter and egg yolks added to Medlar butter.

The only other thing is that the foliage of Nottingham is rather small and narrow, so the trees lack the grandeur of the Dutch kind, which have large leaves and a nice habit. Still a very attractive small tree, with excellent buttery autumn foliage colour which lasts longer than most.