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 of 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. What to 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 puree, 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 that 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 before hand—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 puree 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!
Will You Be Making Medlar Jam?
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: 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.
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.
© 2010 Les Trois Chenes
Any Jammy or Cheesy Medlar Comments?
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on December 26, 2016:
Do come back and tell me what you did with them, Jenny.
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on December 26, 2016:
Hi Anastasia - do let me know how you get on with the jam. I'm sure you can make wine at least with medlars - you can make it with most things. I'll look into this. Thanks for your comments.
Jenny Westgate on December 19, 2016:
Wonderful, thank you very much the for information. We have rather a lot of Medlars to deal with too
Anastasia on December 10, 2016:
I have a medlar tree in Northern Greece. I love the fruits. I will make your suggested jam recipe. Any idea if I can make a medlar homemade liquor?
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on December 05, 2016:
Thank you so much for leaving this message, Amanda. No, I've never heard of feijoas or seen them in France. I'll keep an eye open for them. I do hope that the recipes work out for you. Can you come back and let me know?
Amanda Loxley. From Domezain. on December 03, 2016:
Hi, I bought a box of ready bletted medlars this morning at Mauleon market - the locals didn't really seem to know what they were....but I did and snaffled the lot! I shall enjoy making all the recipes tomorrow.
Have you tried feijoas? I only came across them when I moved to France and am lucky enough to have a bush in my garden. They make a superb jelly from the liquid and then a cheese with the solids....and then chutney with the gloop left in the sieve, skins and all - how's that for economy?
Thank you for your comprehensive coverage on medlar.
Kind regards Amanda.
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on June 22, 2016:
Thank you so much for this tip, Betty. Pushing ANYTHING through a sieve is tedious and any shortcut welcome.
Betty on June 21, 2016:
I have found using a potato ricer quicker and quite efficent instead of a sieve.
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on November 12, 2014:
This is a cheese which means that the pulp is used and you get something like a paste consistency. Have you looked at my medlar jelly recipe? This turns out clear and bright. You put the fruit into a pan and cover with water and simmer until soft but I guess you could just try pushing them through the sieve and see if it works. Then boil up the sugar and fruit. I'll add a link to an article about that all-too-tricky setting point. Always a struggle. I hope this helps.
cukinongas on November 11, 2014:
I am new to this. I have tried to make medlar jelly twice but it turned out really cloudy so I have given that up. The jam looks fairly easy.
My medlars are really soft as many of them bletted on the tree. Do I need to cook then or do I just extract the pulp ? Is the cooking water used in the process ? All information greatfully received
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on July 02, 2014:
Well spotted Lucy! I just put the cinnamon in with the other ingredients at the start. Do come back and let me know how you got on.
Lucy on July 01, 2014:
When do you add the cinnamin?
I was pleased when I read the purée could be frozen as I have about ten kg of medlars given to me by a friend who recently bought a house with a tree. I have had to sort through them and think a few were over bletted some just stayed hard. I think it is going to take me two days just to cook the things and I will push them them through a mouli as I don't have a sieve that could do the trick.
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on February 19, 2012:
Many thanks for pointing this out! How could I have forgotten the sugar?? Add the sugar when you've made the puree, and then bring them to the boil together. Do let me know how it turns out. I've also added a few more medlar recipe links. I'm going to try the tart as I still have medlar puree in the freezer. (I've also added a little vanilla as this flavour really compliments the medlar cheese.)
Bridget Lane on February 18, 2012:
Does the sugar get added at the last stage? I'm in DR Congo and we have lots of medlar trees now in fruit so I need plenty of ideas to use them all up.
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on November 10, 2010:
katrinasui, thank you for your kind comments. It is easy, much easier than marmalade, but the sieving is slow. On the other hand it is a speciality product and everyone will be intrigued to try it.
katrinasui on November 10, 2010:
I didn't know that it is easy to make medlar jam. I like the way you explained the process of making medlar jam.