Mespilus germanica or the Medlar is an ancient fruit, a relative of the apple and native of northern Greece. Botanically, it sits somewhere between a pear and a hawthorn.
Once cultivated widely during Tudor times in England. This is not a fruit that is widely known about or easily procured – Brunyfire only found out about it from a local source – found it growing and documented its growth and picked some of its fruit.The medlar flowers in November here in Tassie – its flower emerging in solitary fashion from the ends of the shoots of the same year’s growth and changing from white to pale pink as it matures.The medlar fruit starts to form in December (again – in Tassie) and should be picked preferably at the green stage and stored in a cool dry place to allow the fruit to mellow and mature.The last of the fruit in May (above)…….……..and medlars ready for eating.These medlars where also ready for eating (artfully displayed on an Arthur Rosser wood fired platter)……..…..tasting like a cross between a date and a pear, slightly caramely with a little cider/spice sensation – delicious, but a real pain to eat as it contains a number of stones and it does not have the most appealing of demeanours – ie. it doesn’t look appetising. Hardly surprising when in British plays of the 16th and 17th centuries, the fruit was usually referred to bawdily as ‘open-arses’ – trust the Brits! Or ‘cat’s arses’ – take your pick!
These particular medlars were available from Aproneers in Lindisfarne, near Hobart……….. …….who had celebrated their opening in May of this year with Kylie Kwong as its guest opener.Aproneer is a team of 3 – Jo Smith, Paul Crosby and Matt Osborne who all have a passion for food and where it comes from.Check out their website for daily updates and recipes. But back to medlars. Not the most attractive of things to eat, and with such an off-putting nick name, Brunyfire preferred to cook them up into a jelly. But – before you do that, you have to wait until another charming characteristic of this weird fruit has occurred – that of bletting. A polite term from the French ‘blettir’ that means ‘to soften by undergoing the initial stages of decomposition’ – trust the French to find a polite term for such a long winded explanation, but it’s a damn sight nicer than ‘rot’.
And then there is this – an 18th century definition (from The Art and Mystery of Food ) of the medlar fruit that puts the whole thing into context:
“A fruit, vulgarly called an open arse; of which it is more truly than delicately said, that it is never ripe till it is as rotten as a turd, and then it is not worth a fart.”
Despite this unsavoury description, Brunyfire decided to make a medlar jelly sourced from a number of different recipes.
Foraged Medlar Jelly.
Take a kilo of bletted * medlars, a couple of quartered lemons and enough water to cover the fruit, bring this to the boil and simmer gently for a couple of hours, or until the fruit is really soft. Ladle the contents of the pan into a colander with a double layer of muslin and allow the mixture to drip through the muslin, preferably overnight. Avoid the temptation to squeeze the mixture through the muslin, as this will encourage a cloudy result.
* NOTE: The best way to ‘blet’ fruit is to pick it whilst it is still a golden colour, but these will be as hard as rock. Store them on a flat tray, so they don’t touch each other and place in a cool, dry place until the fruit become soft to touch. Don’t allow them to go mouldy.
The following day, measure equal amounts of strained liquid to sugar, and place in pan. Heat the mixture slowly. stirring gently until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to rapid boil, and continue until setting point is reached. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool enough to be handled and then pour jelly into sterilized jars.This jelly has a rich mellow taste of date and pears – the sweetness can be adjusted with the amount of sugar added, but try serving it with all the usual suspects – cheese (with slices of apple and pear) – or with game meat – venison, wallaby, possum or rabbit.
Medlars also make a rich liqueur and the one pictured was a combination recipe taken from Sally Wise’s A Year in a Bottle and the blog of Jonathan Kent, journalist and broadcaster with the BBC in the UK. Whilst Sally Wise used vodka, and Jonathan Kent used brandy, this version was made with gin.
Foraged Medlar Liqueur.
The method is pretty simple. Pierce the the bletted (soft) medlars all over, and place them in a sterilized jar with well fitting lid. Make a syrup by warming about 2 cups of gin (in this instance) with 350 grams of sugar (can be adjusted to personal taste) until the sugar has dissolved and pour the mixture over the medlars. Seal the jar, turn upside down every once in a while for a week or so, and then leave it in a cool, dark place for 6 months or a year before straining the liquid.
This makes a really nice dessert drop and would go down very well with some of John Zito’s chocolate. John is a chocolatier and hazelnut grower who runs a tiny jewel of a shop at Kettering – but that – as the saying goes – is another story………..