I'm living the good life in Limousin, rural France, and enjoying learning how to grow, gather and cook food the old-fashioned way.
This Medlar Jam Recipe Is Really a Medlar Cheese Recipe
This is a step-by-step guide on how to make medlar jam, or, as it's technically a cheese, how to make medlar cheese. The medlar was a common fruit in Victorian times and has since been rather forgotten, but now it's coming back into fashion, and quite rightly so, but there are not many medlar recipes about.
Better and bigger varieties of medlar are on the market, and people are planting the pretty medlar trees, but few know what to do with the fruit.
So what can you do with medlars? This is just one idea, but I've found a few other medlar recipes.
What's the Difference Between a Jam and a Fruit Cheese?
In a jam, whole or chopped fruit is cooked to a purée, but to make fruit cheeses, the fruit is passed through a sieve. You need to pass the cooked medlars through a sieve to get rid of the skin and the relatively large pips, leaving behind only the flesh, so this recipe is technically a 'cheese'. In other words, this is a medlar purée, or fruit paste recipe.
Our Medlar Tree
We were lucky enough to inherit a mature medlar tree when we moved to Videix, a sleepy little hamlet in Limousin in South West France. We came here to set up a Bed and Breakfast and holiday cottage in Limousin, 'Les Trois Chenes'. We use the fruit to make a jam, or, to be precise, a 'cheese' that makes an excellent addition to the Christmas Breakfast menu for our bed and breakfast guests.
The Common Medlar (Mespilus germanica) is a pretty small tree for the garden and easy to grow. Ours was planted at the bottom of the vegetable garden and is now partly in the area where we keep the hens. So far, it has never failed to produce a good crop right at the end of autumn when all other fruit has finished.
Harvesting the Medlar Fruit
Medlars are an unusual fruit and not suited to the supermarket, so I expect that you will have gathered, grown or have been given your medlars. If so, this is what you do with them next.
Medlars are small and round. They're yellowish when mature, and then they turn a reddish brown in November. They are very decorative with their five large, star-shaped calyx at the end. They hang from the tree like Christmas baubles after the leaves have dropped.
Hard and inedible until they start to decay, they should be harvested as late as possible in November. Leave them in a box in a cool, dry place until they become soft and juicy. This ripening process is known as 'bletting' the medlars.
You can eat them raw; they taste a bit like stewed apple, and the dark brown flesh has the same texture. They can also be used to make jam (or cheese) and jelly.
Equipment You Will Need
- A jam pan: Mine is a lovely French copper one which is also decorative when not in use.
- Wooden spoon with long handle
- Old jam jars: You can use any other sort of jar, but beware lingering odours.
- Heatproof jug or special jam funnel
- Jam covers, if you like, but I don't bother with these
- Labels or something to help you remember what it is and when you made it
- Medlars, ‘bletted’ (left in a box until they become ripe and juicy)
- 2 lemons and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon for every kilogram of whole fruit
- Sugar: Less than the same weight of sugar to puréed fruit. I used about 3/4 sugar to fruit.
- Water to cover
- A little vanilla (or vanilla essence)
Step 1: Prepare Your Jars and Utensils
- Save your old jars and wash them and the tops in hot soapy water. It's nice to soak off the labels beforehand—but I admit that, being a 'Rustic Cook', I never get around to soaking mine.
- Put the jar tops and the funnel into a pan, cover the tops with water and bring to the boil with the pan covered. This will sterilize them.
- I sterilise the jars in the microwave by pouring a little water into the bottom of each and microwaving on full for 3–4 minutes. If you don't have a microwave, you can put them into a traditional oven.
It is important that your jars, lids and any other equipment are sterile; otherwise, moulds and bacteria will spoil the jam. Having said that, a little mould on the top of the jam is normal, and my great aunt used to just scrape it off. You can buy paper jam covers to pop on the top, but, again, I don't bother with this. So far, I haven't found that my jam has gone mouldy.
Step 2: Process the Medlars and Make the Jam
- Wash the fruit (I didn’t bother to chop mine; speed is of the essence).
- Quarter the lemons and put the medlars, the lemon, cinnamon and the water into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently until the fruit is soft.
- Rub the fruit through a sieve. This is time-consuming and a pain if you have a large quantity (as we do). Time it so that you can listen to a good play on the radio, put on your fave music or watch Inspector Morse et al on TV.
- Put the purée back into the jam pan, add the sugar and slowly bring to the boil, then simmer gently until reduced by about half. Your jam is now ready to go into the pot.
Medlar Fruit Cheese Makes a Wonderfully Spicy Christmas Treat
This jam can be used as a spread on toast, bread and croissants. It goes wonderfully well with cheese, and you can use it as a sauce or topping at Christmas. Why not make medlar cheese as a Christmas gift? Cook your own!
Questions & Answers
Question: Some recipes state the fruit must not be pushed through the sieve, but allowed to drip overnight to make Medlar jam - what difference does this make?
Answer: If you drip the pulp you will get a clear jelly, but if you rub the pulp through a sieve you'll get a texture more like a compote. I prefer the second as I don't like to waste the pulp.
Question: What ratio of medlars to sugar do you use to make jam?
Answer: I use 2 kilos of medlars to 1 kilo of sugar.
Question: Should you harvest the fruit from the tree when making Medlar Jam, or wait till it falls?
Answer: I pick them from the floor, if undamaged, and from the tree. They are ready in France in November and they're ready to pick when they become soft to touch - really quite squidgy! I do hope your jam turns out well. I also tried, successfully, to make medlar jelly and cheesecake.
© 2010 Les Trois Chenes