Bletted medlars

Let the bletting begin

by Sam Bilton on November 27, 2012 43 comments

 

Bletted medlars

Some food stuffs are are fiddly to prepare but are well worth the effort. One such food is the medlar, a fruit which is in danger of disappearing into the annals of time, as it’s popularity has plummeted over the centuries.

It’s easy to see why people don’t clamour over these fruit. Khaki, rock hard and acidic at first they need a good frost to ripen. Then they turn russet brown and become squashy with an unmistakable slightly rancid scent of rotten fruit. As food preservation techniques have been perfected we have become conditioned to treat anything that smells slightly off with caution. I was once told by a former chef that some restaurants used to hang game birds like pheasant until they were almost maggoty but deliciously high. Now you would imagine any restaurant still following this practice would be closed by the Environmental Health Department. It seems such a shame that our obsession with hygiene can lead us to overlook some of natures treasures.

Medlar blossom

Medlar blossom

In France the medlar is known as the cul de chien (dog’s arse) which is a tad unfair as I think they are as attractive as any apple or pear. On the continent they are eaten raw in their bletted state (the term given to the ripe fruit). I have to confess I have never tried them raw as I have always found the smell off putting (even I’m not immune to ‘conditioning’). These days they are more commonly grown as ornamental trees with the fruit being largely ignored and left to rot. At my sons’ school there is a medlar tree and for several years I have been gathering the fruit. At first I made medlar jelly and medlar cheese (both of which are very good). Then I came across a medlar vinegar made by Stratta which is dynamite in a salad dressing. I couldn’t help feeling there was far more you do this fruit than turning it into a jelly.

Medlars ripening on the tree

Of course there is the matter of their preparation. Medlars contain several pips which need to be separated from the pulp. Whenever I prepare medlars I use food historian Ivan Day’s  method (although rather than a sieve I use a mouli). I’m not going to lie, this process is lengthy, labour intensive and messy. However, once you have your purée you can freeze any that you don’t use immediately.

Preparing medlars the old fashioned way

Preparing medlars the old fashioned way

So here is the first of my suggestions for how you can make the most of this strange fruit. The are two versions of the cake simply because I couldn’t make my mind up which one I prefer. I’m a sucker for moist ginger cakes but I also like the contrast of the crunchy nuts against the soft sponge. I’d be delighted to know which one you prefer.

Bletted medlar

Bletted medlar

Medlar, ginger and apricot cake

Medlar, ginger and apricot cake

Ingredients 

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 225ml sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 225g dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 225g medlar purée
  • 50g stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped
  • 150g dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp ginger syrup

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 23cm round springform cake tin.
  2. Sift the flour, raising agents and spices together into a bowl.
  3. Using an electric whisk or food mixer beat the oil and sugar in another bowl until light. Then add one egg at a time beating well after each addition.
  4. Beat in the medlar puree then fold in the flour and spice mixture. Finally, fold in the stem ginger and apricots.
  5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin the bake for 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. As soon as it is cooked prick all over the top of the cake with a skewer or fork then drizzle the cake with the ginger syrup. Leave to cool in the tin before slicing.

Medlar and macadamia cake

Medlar & macadamia cake

Ingredients

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 225ml sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 225g dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 225g medlar purée
  • 150g macadamia halves

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 23cm round springform cake tin.
  2. Sift the flour, raising agents and mixed spice together into a bowl.
  3. Using an electric whisk or food mixer beat the oil and sugar in another bowl until light. Then add one egg at a time beating well after each addition.
  4. Beat in the medlar puree then fold in the flour and spice mixture. Finally, fold in the nuts.
  5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin the bake for 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin before slicing.

Later this week I’ll be posting my recipe for medlar mincemeat.

Sam BiltonLet the bletting begin

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43 comments

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  • John Inman - April 28, 2015 reply

    My Dads moms dad off the boat to Kansas ala 1848,Glasglough,Guthrie,Bletted Quinces[must have taken a long time] crabs[apples]too ate with heavy cream and sugar[1930’s on.Dunlap Kafarmers all…thers’s a Wikipedia on this.place

  • Stephanie - November 21, 2014 reply

    My medlar tree has produced so much fruit this year that I have given 8 lbs of medlars to my neighbour who will be using them to make wine. Someone asked about making medlar wine, so here is my neighbour’s recipe:-
    Medlar Wine Recipe
    Ingredients:
    · 8 lb. Medlars
    · 2.5 lbs sugar (you can add half and half honey)
    · Pectin enzyme
    · Water up to 1 gallon
    · 1/2 pint strong black tea/1lb of chopped raisins for tannin
    Campden tablet and Wine yeast
    Method:
    1. Wash and crush the ripe medlars, place the fruit in a fermentation bucket.
    2. Add 1 lb. of sugar and the tea or chopped raisins.
    3. Boil half the water and pour over the mixture, making sure the sugar is dissolved, then add an equal quantity of cold water.
    4. Add the campden tablet and pectin enzyme.
    5. Cover closely and leave for three- five days in a warm place, stirring daily.
    6. Strain through a fine sieve (do not press) add the rest of the sugar; a rule of thumb with country wine is, only add as much sugar as you need to reach an SG of 1.080 – 1.085 and that will almost guarantee a dry ferment at 12%.
    7. Add the wine yeast, put the mixture into a demijohn and fit an airlock to seal the jar.
    8. Store in a warm place and allow the fermentation to work.
    9. When fermentation has ceased, rack the wine into a clean jar and place in a cooler environment and leave. When the wine is clear and stable, siphon into bottles.
    I have just made 8 jars of jelly and will have a go at baking the medlar, ginger and apricot cake tomorrow. It looks delicious…..

    admin - November 27, 2014 reply

    Thanks for this Stephanie! I’ll definitely try this next year. I used the rest of this year’s crop to make medlar gin. I’ll have to wait a few months before I try it but I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  • Freja - November 11, 2014 reply

    Hi there,

    I have always been a bit obsessed with medlars – I’m a fan of rare breeds/rare species!

    Finally, this year, I found some to buy from a local roadside stall – very exciting! I am not an avid fan of jam, so was looking around for another idea. I looked here, and you mentioned vinegar, but not how you make it. I had a little look elsewhere and found this :
    “…start with high-quality white wine vinegar from the English company Aspall and add an equal weight of fruit, which they steep for as long as it takes to extract all its flavor. For raspberries this can take up to two weeks, though few vinegar makers would bother to wait that long. They then filter the vinegar as many times as it takes for it to come out perfectly clear, before sweetening it to taste with blond cane sugar…”.

    I’m going to give it a go!

    Cheers!
    Freja

  • Leah - November 9, 2014 reply

    I forgot to also mention that when cooking a roast lamb dinner yesterday, we washed, top & tailed a couple of ripe Medlars, cutting them in half and roasted them – they tasted a bit like sweet potatoes but stickier.

  • Leah - November 9, 2014 reply

    Hi Sam
    I was recently given several large bags of Medlar fruit (which I had never heard of before) so I spent some time scouring the internet for recipes as I had no idea what to do with them. Glad I stumbled across your cake recipes! I have today used the Medlar ginger recipe but I omitted the chopped apricots with cranberries and I thought you (and other readers) might be interested to know how lovely the cake turned out. I also added 3 eggs rather than 2 and a dash of vanilla extract. The cake is moist, not too dense (has a spring to the touch, like a good sponge cake) and the flavour is delicious!

    It’s quite difficult to describe the taste of Medlars as, depending on how ripe they are can alter the flavour. To me they taste like a combination of sweet chestnut/apple/mixed spice, although some I tested had a bit of a caramel-ish taste! Very unusual fruit, indeed! I found that about 15 Medlars gave me 8oz of puree. I cut the ends off and scraped out the middle, making sure to scrape the inside of the skin (although this is tricky as the skins are so thin and fragile). Very messy job! Then I put this through a wire sieve.

    I shall definitely be trying out a few more cake combinations e.g. spiced Medlar & apple, Medlar & sultana, Medlar carrot cake, Medlar & pecan…how about a Medlar Xmas fruit cake? there are so many to try (providing you have enough Medlars). Luckily, I will be inundated with more Medlars in December when the last of those on the trees will have ripened (the others we bletted indoors). Next, we shall try making Medlar wine and Medlar jelly! Best regards and thanks again for this informative website! Leah

    admin - November 9, 2014 reply

    Hi Leah glad you liked the recipes. The Medlars I usually pick aren’t quite ready yet (due to the warm start to autumn) but looking forward to making the cakes again. I make medlar mincemeat but have never tried them in a Christmas cake (great idea though!). I’m toying with the idea of trying a Panforte with the puree this year. Love the sound of medlars with lamb so definitely will have to have a go at making something savoury this year!

    Thanks for stopping by the blog and for the feedback. I love to hear about people trying my recipes. 🙂

  • Kevin - October 10, 2014 reply

    Just come across your site as I was wondering if there is anything useful I can do with the tree full of medlars we have in the garden. It is a large tree and there are hundreds of them.
    Do you have a recipe for the Medlar Vinegar? We came across it in Sussex last year so would give it a go.
    I will see if my better half wants to try the other recipes.
    If there is anyone close to Stamford, Lincs who would like to come and pick some for themselves then get in touch. They will probably be OK for picking in 2-3 weeks, longer than that if you want them already bletted.
    Kev

    admin - October 10, 2014 reply

    Hi Kevin

    I’m afraid I don’t have a recipe for Medlar vinegar. The only place I know that sells it is Stratta (http://www.stratta.org). Have you thought about Medlar syrup? There’s a recipe for it on A Kentish Kitchen blog (http://akentishkitchen.co.uk/2011/11/14/medlar-syrup/). The medlar mincemeat recipe on this blog is also good and I’m hoping to publish some more recipes later this year. Have you tried ‘advertising’ your medlars on Twitter?

    Thanks for your interest in the blog. I hope your other half enjoys the recipes.

    Sam

    R - November 7, 2014 reply

    I wish I could come and pick them, Kevin! Hope someone takes you up on your generous offer. If only I lived closer…

  • Kathrin Scherrere - March 29, 2014 reply

    I’m in the south Island of NZ by the sea my medlar tree is about 4m. high gorches flowers set in a bed of soft green leafs and the autumn collar is stunning the tree has a lot of lovely big fruit ,and we were wondering can you make wine from it and how. love to hear from you

    admin - April 1, 2014 reply

    Hi Kathrin. Apologies for the delayed response. I’ve been hunting for an old book that belonged to my father called “Homemade Country Wines” to see if I could find a recipe for medlar wine. Rather annoyingly I thought it contained such a recipe but it appears I was wrong (or looking in the wrong book, which given my cookbook collection is very likely!). Anyway, it did have a recipe for quince wine which you may be able to adapt. I’ve never tried it but if I did I would be inclined to double the quantity of medlars to the number of quinces it suggests (but leave the rest of the ingredients as is). It’s over 50 years old so the measurements are imperial but you should find somewhere on the internet to convert them easily enough. I’d love to hear how it turns out if you decided to make it! I believe someone else who has posted on this blog made medlar beer.

    Quince Wine

    10-24 Quinces
    3lb sugar
    2 lemons
    1 gallon water
    3/4 oz bakers yeast

    Wash the quinces and grate or finely chop them (I’d do the latter with medlars) discarding the cores (medlar pips are tricky to extract so I would just throw them into the pot). Boil in the water for 15 minutes. Strain on to the sugar and stir well. When lukewarm add the juice of two lemons and the yeast mixed with a little of the lukewarm liquid. Cover and allow to stand in a warm place for 24 hours. Pour into fermentation jar and insert an airlock. Ferment to a finish in a warm place. Remove to a cooler place before syphoning off.

    Good luck!

  • Keith Ennis - December 18, 2013 reply

    The Medlar Beer has been brewed and is now in a poly pin maturing. I have just tasted it and it is better than I expected. Five hundred grams of puree in a five gallon brew adds a fruity (and slightly medlary) taste that does not overpower the beer. I think I got the hops right as it is slightly bitter but not overpoweringly so. The only thing I can find wrong with the beer is that it is a bit “thin”.

    I will definitely have another go at this beer (and have some more puree in the freezer). I will bump up the malt content to try and give the beer more body.

  • Pamela Lilly - December 14, 2013 reply

    Can recommend the medlar Chelsea guns. Replaced the fruit quantity with medlar paste, cooked leafy over from making the jelly. Added a sprinkling do currants and also raisins, eith the spices, was yummy!

  • Pamela Pither - December 8, 2013 reply

    I have now tried both the Ginger and the Not cakes and have the following comments.
    The Ginger version was very nice, first of all I forgot to prick and add the syrup and therefore found the cake a little dry, however after adding the syrup it was much improved. although the oil was overpowering, so….
    for The nut version I used soft margarine. The flavour was much better, but I found the oily nuts took over, so think I may try using walnuts next time, or halve the amount and chop them instead of halving them.
    Both these cakes are rich. The ginger one has kept really well, but I have only just made the nut one yesterday.
    I also made a medlar tarte from an olde recipe. Using eggs instead of cream. I think I needed to tone down the cinnamon as this overpowered the whole thing. So I’m thinking that this might be a nice paste to use in chelsea buns with a few raisins/currents (yet to try)
    I’ve now used all the medlars I had left from this years crop. 5 kilos only made 3 jars, so I think I may have concentrated it a little too much (we will see).
    I’m about to use the pulp and the mincemeat recipe looks good for this purpose as I’ve quite a lot left over from the jelly. So will use some for mincemeat and some for Medlar paste. Just trying to find the recipe that I’d come across to get the amount of water to use.

  • Pamela Pither - December 3, 2013 reply

    Not yet, but I’ve followed you @Cookerybooks is our twitter page.
    Just finished the Medlar Ginger and Apricot cake, it looks amazing, can’t wait for tea-time to taste it. Have put it on my Twitter page and website.

  • Pamela Pither - December 3, 2013 reply

    Awaiting the medlar mincemeat with anticipation.

    admin - December 3, 2013 reply

    You won’t be disappointed! I tweeted your offer. Has anyone contacted you?

  • Pamela Lilly - December 2, 2013 reply

    Keith did you use the seeds for the pectin?

    Keith Ennis - December 5, 2013 reply

    I used the whole fruit cut in half, covered with water and boiled for about 45 minutes. This was mashed before putting in the jelly bag. I did use some jam sugar with added pectin when boiling the liquid to setting point..

  • Pamela Lilly - December 2, 2013 reply

    I have about 5 kilos left for sale. They are bletted now, so unless they sell in the next few days, I will be trying some of the great ideas here. If anyone wants them you can contact me through my website http://www.oldandvintagecookbooks.co.uk they will be £4.50 per 500 gms, plus postage. Or collect from Reading address.
    I really am going to try the cake recipes and may venture to try them again raw, although I haven’t liked them before, but my other half does. May just try them with some ice cream or maple syrup.
    I was going to try the tart, but am put off by the previous comments.
    Am curious to find out how freezing them worked?

    admin - December 2, 2013 reply

    Hi Pamela. The puree freezes really well so I assume the the bletted medlars would too (although I haven’t tried this myself). It would be a shame to waste them particularly as you so rarely see them for sale. I’ll tweet about your sale to see if I can drum up any interest. Good luck!

    Pamela Lilly - December 2, 2013 reply

    Just tried medlar raw. Picked a nice squashey one, not smelling mouldy, like the one I tried previously.
    Peeled round the dogs bottom, then on the reverse side, put knife round the stalk and pushing from the stalk end, the whole core including the five seeds popped out, as one lump.
    Then peeled the skin off as you would a mushroom skin.
    This just leaves the flesh, the thing was in whole shape, so spread it out a little.
    Tasted it found the taste very pleasant, but the texture was a little dry. So added a scoop of ice cream to the centre and maple syrup.
    I will try with some honey next time as the maple overpowered the fruit.
    Will report back next testing.
    Think that the preparation method above, would alleviate the necessity of sieving the pulp, I did find it a little stringey, but maybe not once cooked.

  • Keith Ennis - November 29, 2013 reply

    My medlars cropped extremely well this year and I have taken more care in bletting them. Two years ago I tried bletting them in the garage and the mice thought they were excellent, this year they have been in the conservatory.

    They have now reached peak conditionand I am in the process of making some medlar jelly. I have also passed some through a sieve to get a puree. I did not cook them and they were bletted enough to be (relatively) easy to process. I just cut in half, took the flesh out and passed through the sieve. Atray full gave me about 400 grams of puree and took about an hour. Only another six trays to go.

    And what will I do with the puree? Well, it is sitting in the fridge at present and I plan to use it to make some medlar beer. A normal bitter brew, not using to many hops and then adding the medlar puree to the fermentation. Does anyone have any suggestion of how much to use for a five gallon brew?

    admin - November 29, 2013 reply

    I’m not a beer brewer myself so I wouldn’t have a clue how much purée to use. Sounds like a fantastic idea though!

    Keith Ennis - November 30, 2013 reply

    Just made a jelly out of some of the other medlars. If you do it properly the amount of jelly is far less than the recipe says. However, if you reduce the jelly to the correct “setting point” it goes wonderfully firm. I can only think that other people who complain of runny jelly have not reached “setting point” before putting in a jar.

    Tomorrow is the medlar beer brewing.

  • Choclette - November 29, 2013 reply

    Oh I like the bletted medlars eaten straight from the skin with a teaspoon – they taste like toffee. I’ve never made a cake from them though and your ginger and apricot one sounds fabulous. The question is, do I have time to make a puree – hmmm.

    admin - November 29, 2013 reply

    I’ll really have to try them raw. You’re the second person to sing their praises eaten this way. It is a bit of a pain to make the purée but it is worth it in the end!

  • Lucy @SupergoldenBakes - November 29, 2013 reply

    What a beautiful cake! No idea where to find meddlars (never heard of them before!) but intrigued enough to look.

    admin - November 29, 2013 reply

    They’re quite elusive but definitely worth seeking them out if you can find them (I get mine from a tree growing in the grounds of the school). The Elizabethans adored them.

  • Carrie - November 17, 2013 reply

    I’ve just discovered medlars, and am bletting a small quantity at home. There is no smell whatever and as there are so few of them, I’m eating as they ripen – there isn’t a very strong taste either; but they are pleasantly different from any other fruit I’ve tasted.
    Wonder if I’ve lost my sense of smell…

    admin - November 17, 2013 reply

    I have to admit that I’ve never tried eating them raw. I usually wait unit they are really squidgy before I pick them (hence the smell) and then cook them as soon as I get home. I don’t think you’ve lost your sense of smell. You’re probably eating them when they are just right rather than going over to over ripe (which is when I pick them). They were very popular as a fruit in Elizabethan times. Perhaps I should give them a go raw this year. 🙂

    Carrie - November 19, 2013 reply

    I know they’re an Elizabethan fruit (my source is not a million miles from Shakespeare’s birthplace!).
    I had avoided picking the fruit until after the first frost (as suggested on Wikipedia) but by then most of what had been a prolific crop had disappeared.
    I’ve just had three bletted medlars for breakfast (and nowhere but this blog would I dare say that without feeling I’d be accused of pretentiousness, or worse)
    There’s really not a lot of to medlars is there? maybe next year I’ll make jam…

    Carrie - November 19, 2013 reply

    I mean cake of course! Those recipes look delicious by the way.

  • Amy - November 11, 2013 reply

    Hi, I’ve found a medlar tree in my university gardens (in England), but the fruit is still hard. It’s already November and has been a damp Autumn, so I’m unsure if the frosts will let the let the fruit blet in time or if the rain will simply ruin them if I leave them too long. Can anyone tell me if I should give them a chance on the tree or pick them now and try to blet them in my house?

    admin - November 11, 2013 reply

    Medlars are best left to blet on the tree. I’ve never had a problem waiting for this to happen (irrespective of how damp the weather is). However, I have also picked them when they have been hard and left them to blet at home (I usually do this in the garage because the smell can become quite intense once they start to go!). Hope this helps Amy and thanks for taking the time to visit the site.

  • Roberta - June 1, 2013 reply

    Hi
    I live in Sydney, Australia, and I have a young medlar which has fruit on it. One seems to have bletted on the tree so I’m thinking I should harvest the rest. I’d like to make jelly but I’m not sure what to do about having a small quantity. In your blog you mentioned freezing the pulp, but is this after you’ve boiled them? I know you can freeze berries to use later without cooking them first, I was hoping I can do the same for medlars without having to boil and puree small quantities.
    Our average temp in winter doesn’t often go below 45degF and I’m worried if it rains the water puddles on the fruit.
    Roberta:-)

    admin - June 3, 2013 reply

    Hi Roberta

    Lucky you having your own medlar tree! I’ve only ever frozen the pulp after boiling the fruit but I guess you could try freezing the raw fruit. I would imagine that in the worst case scenario the fruit would be really mushy once it’s defrosted but seeing as this is what you want in the first place I wouldn’t see this as a problem when making jelly. I’d be intrigued to see how you get on so let me know how it turns out if you do freeze the fruit first. Thanks for stopping by. Sam

    Roberta - June 4, 2013 reply

    Phew, here you are, I’ve subscribed to your feed so I don’t lose you again:-)

    You’re probably right, they might not freeze well but I’ll see how I go. I’m aware that once they blet you don’t have much time [bit like pears, perfect for about 5 minutes] but I just didn’t want to boil and puree one at a time.

    It’s such an attractive tree and the blossoms are so pretty!

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  • Nigel - December 2, 2012 reply

    Many thanks for the recipes – it’s good to use the fruit for something other jelly, cheese and chutney. I once tried medlar pie but it was too rich and we ended up throwing most of it away.

    admin - December 2, 2012 reply

    Glad you liked them Nigel. I’ve just posted a recipe for medlar mincemeat (http:/www.comfortablyhungry.com/?p=742). I think I’m going to try a savoury medlar and blue cheese tart next.

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