December 14, 2014 by sarah
When we were on holiday in Suffolk at the end of October, we came across a medlar tree in the car park of a National Trust property. I had a vague recollection of reading about medlars and being intrigued about this very old fruit, so after asking we filled a carrier bag full. They didn’t seem promising at that stage. I bit into one and it was hard and astringent (really unripe) but after some internet research, I found that they are only edible after ‘bletting’ which really is just another word for allowing to go rotten. So when we got them home, I laid them out in a flat box and put them in the shed. And forgot about them. Until this week. When I entered the shed I could smell a ripe fruity smell, which I followed to find the box of now bletted medlars! They had changed colour from a yellow green to deep brown. Eating them fresh is probably an acquired taste because at first I wasn’t sure if they were any good but after a few days of trying them, they grew on me. The fresh is a disgusting brown colour and a grainy but completely mushy texture, but the flavour is unique; like stewed apple with a hint of rhubarb. So here are a few posts on what I made with my medlars!
Medlars are related to roses and therefore apples. They contain about 5 large pips and a have a fairly tough skin. They were a fruit popular in medieval times and known as ‘cats (or dogs) arse’ because of their curious shaped bottoms! I have to say from a veterinary/anatomical point of view, they are not very anatomically correct. An unusual sweetmeat was made from spiced medlar cheese called chardequince, though it was made from that Cinderella of the British orchard, the medlar rather than the more popular quince. The historic food website has all manor of old food facts and trivia and you can see these chardequince. Also this kind of cheese is not a dairy cheese; it is an old-fashioned preserve made with fruit puree and sugar that is slowly simmer for a long time to reach a stiff consistency that is sliceable. Fruit cheeses are traditionally served with cheeses or meats but can also be eaten as a sweet (kind of like fruit pastilles) at the end of a meal or with nuts and port. They should last for a long time, a year at least, but I am keeping them in the spare fridge just to be safe as I don’t have an old fashioned larder (on the wish list though).
I have included both recipes here on the same page because they both start out the same. Take the bletted medlars and squish them in your hands into a large pan; if they are well bletted then this is easy. Add enough water to come half way up the fruit and simmer on a medium heat for 15-20 minutes until well and truly mushy. Use a potato masher to get the flesh out of the fruit.
Put the cooked fruit and liquid into a jelly bag and suspend at least overnight to allow the juices to drip out. Give a little squeeze to release some more juice (I think I did it too much because the finished jelly was cloudy). Measure this juice into a pan and add the juice of a lemon and 450g granulated sugar for every pint of medlar juice. Warm slowly until the sugar is dissolved and then boil furiously until setting point is reached (it took about 10 minutes for mine). Take off the heat and allow to stand for a few minutes, skim off the scum and pot into sterilised jars while still boiling hot.
Take the stewed medlars and push the flesh though a sieve, discarding the skins and seeds. This takes ages; put some music or course work on in the back ground!
Weight the puree into a heavy bottomed pan and add three quarters this weight of granulated sugar (e.g. 1kg puree will need 750g sugar) and the juice of a lemon.
Heat gently, stirring frequently and constantly towards the time when the cheese is thickening. It is ready when you draw a spoon through the mixture and it stays parted for a few seconds – like the Red Sea! Prepare some moulds (muffin/cupcake pans, mini loaf tins, large loaf tins) by greasing the insides with some oil with no flavour (I used regular sunflower oil) using some kitchen paper. VERY carefully tip/spoon/pour some of the mixture into the moulds and level. Be very careful; it is like molten lava! Leave to cool overnight before turning out and wrapping in greaseproof paper.
UPDATE 21/9/15 – I tried making damson cheese with this recipe but waiting long enough for the Red Sea meant the mixture was over cooked – it tasted like burnt sugar and was so hard, it would not come out of the moulds and was not cuttable! I think less cooking next time. It is also very time consuming; took over and hour and a half to get this thick.
Category Home, Recipe Index | Tags: cheese,jam,jelly,medlar,others | 8 Comments
December 29, 2013 by sarah
I made these to go with the cheese board over Christmas. If you know me, you how much I love cheese. But now I have found a recipe for crackers that are good enough to eat in their own right rather than just being a token apparatus to get cheese to the mouth!
The original recipe is here on ‘theKitchn’ and seems to be very adaptable and forgiving. I don’t normally cook by cup measurements as it doesn’t seem accurate enough for baking (and I don’t own a cup measure) but I used a small plastic cup as the measure and got stuck in. The recipe is based on soda bread. I shoved in some dried apricots and a mix of nuts and seeds as I didn’t have enough of any particular one and the only brown flour I had in the house was strong bread flour. AND they still came out fantastic. I still have one of the loaves in the freezer for another round of crackers when I feel like it! Brill!
1 cup dried fruit e.g. cranberries, apricots, dates, raisins
3/4 nuts e.g. pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts
1/2 cup mixed seeds e.g. pumpkin, sunflower
1 cup plain flour
1 cup whole wheat, rye, spelt or other whole-grain flour
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon herbs e.g. rosemary or thyme
2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 cups milk with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice added, leave for 10 minutes
Preheat oven to 180 °C or 160 °C if fan. Grease two loaf tins.
Place the dried fruit in a small bowl and pour over very hot water from the kettle. Allow time to plump up while you get the other ingredients together.
Toast the nuts in the oven until golden brown and fragrant and then roughly chop. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flours, herbs, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. Pour over the buttermilk and stir together with a spatula until no dry mixture remains but do not continue mixing beyond this.
Drain the dried fruit and if using a large fruit such as apricots or dates, roughly chop. Add the fruit with the nuts and seeds to the batter, stir gently to mix. Do not be worried if your batter look very liquid at this stage.
Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf tins, place on a baking sheet and put in the oven for about 30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Remove the cakes from the pans and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. Then wrap in cling or greaseproof paper, put in a freezer bag and pop in the freezer until you are ready to do the next stage, but they need to be frozen for at least 4 hours before they are firm enough to cut thinly.
When you are ready to turn the cakes into crackers then preheat the oven to 150° C. Remove one of the loaves from the freezer and unwrap. With a very sharp knife, slice as thin as possible. Lay the slices out on baking trays so they are one layer thick.
Bake the slices for 15 minutes, turn the slices over and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so. They should now have turned a darker colour, be starting to curl at the edges but not blacken. Do not worry if they are still a little soft in the centre as they will firm up when you cool them on a cooling rack. Store in a airtight tin until ready to be eaten.
Category Home, Recipe Index | Tags: bake cake,baking,bread,cheese,cracker,fruit,other,soda bread | No Comments