Posts Tagged ‘Jelly’

Medlar Jelly

THE MEDLAR is a curious fruit that most people have neither seen nor eaten. The most popular culinary use for medlars is in medlar jelly, although there are many other uses: the bletted flesh can also be eaten uncooked mixed with cream and sugar,  as a sweet pie filling, made into a fruit “cheese”, or as a candy (a sort of pâte de fruit) and in chutney for example. Very popular in British cuisine from the middle ages up until Victorian times, this unusual brown fruit eventually fell out of fashion – most likely due to the unusual method of preparation necessary for it’s consumption…

Medlars make a surprisingly tropical tasting, jewel toned, coral coloured jelly.


The medlar is similar to quince (another unusual “old fashioned” fruit), in that they are still rock hard while on the tree and cannot be eaten without further preparation. They also have the unique distinction of being the last fruit of the season before winter. They are harvested in November – preferably after a good frost – and left to mature for several weeks until nearly rotten, before being used. This uncommon process is termed as “bletting”. Medlars store well and travel well. A small tree requires little or no care and is likely to be prolific, producing bumper crops. The flavour is very uncommon – being strangely tropical for an autumn fruit growing in Northern regions.  So it begs the question of why this fruit features so rarely in contemporary cooking.

Unsurprisingly, It’s likely that the extra work in waiting and checking the fruits while they blet, not to mention our modern squeamishness (myself certainly being no exception) of eating something that is… well ermmm, decaying actually. Yes, it has to be said: working with a recipe that calls for a basin full of obscure, rotting brown fruit is not for the faint hearted. Pretty icky. However, take courage and you will be rewarded with a delicious, fragrant and jewel coloured delicacy.

One of the most frequently asked questions is “What does it taste like?”. Not such an easy question to answer. The Medlar has an unusual flavour that most people seem to either love, or hate and is said to have one of the most complex flavours of all fruits. I would say rather a more precise answer is that a medlar tastes like itself. Being that it is difficult to describe anything for which the only reference to the subject is the thing itself – “complex” is at least not wrong. Not so helpful however in deciding whether one should go to all the extra effort of acquisition and preparation of such an unfamiliar food… So, for my part, the closest flavour I can compare a medlar’s to is that of GUAVA, with a little cinnamon added (or maybe a touch or maple, or oak).  Difficult to say, but certainly not like dates or spicy apricots, as I have heard some people describe the taste. Then again, you may ask what a guava tastes like. “Tropical” I’d say… and that’s pretty outstanding when compared to everything else that readily grows in our cool, decidedly untypical climates.

The opinion on the attractiveness of the medlar also seems to be greatly divided. Some people think they are beautiful, while historic nicknames such as “dog’s bottom” (and others verging on the pornographic) reflect a lack of admiration. I am in the former group and find them quite beautiful. They remind me of huge make-believe rosehips, the type which might be in Alice’s Wonderland. Big fantastical cartooned rosehips – although, a rather unspectacular dull brown. OK, they aren’t a shiny, juicy crimson. But still…

A bowl of medlars picked in mid November – in fact the Medlar is a relative of the rose.



2 kilos *bletted Medlars 

200g fresh medlars /or/ 2-3 apples chopped (skin and all)

*note: As bletted medlars have little pectic, apples add natural pectin to help this jelly set. To avoid using apples (or another pectin rich fruit), it is necessary to include a quantity of fresh unbelted fruit, which are high in pectin. In order to have firm unbletted medlars: you can pick the bulk of your fruit on the early side of the season, leaving some on the tree to pick at a second stage once the initial harvest has bletted. Otherwise you can allow the medlars to only partially belt, so that more pectin will remain in each fruit.

40g citric acid

spring or mineral water (about 2 litres plus more to replace evaporation)

750g of sugar for every litre of strained liquid (i.e 75% weight sugar to volume of strained liquid)


1. roughly chop the medlars whole, into small pieces. Check the medlars: Properly bletted fruit will be caramel brown on the inside and mushy. discard any that are heavily moulded (white/grey fuzz) or black on the inside. Medlars that are a bit mouldy on the inside or outside are normal and will be fine.

2. add medlars & apples only to a stainless steel pot. Add about 2 litres of water – enough to emerse  the fruit by a couple of centimetres – and boil for ½ an hour. Add the citric acid, cover the pot and boil for a further ½ an hour. Ensuring that water has not evaporated too much – if it does add a bit more water, bringing to boil after any new addition.

*note on apples: You can use commercial pectin such as Certo, but I don’t use such bottled pectin in jams or jellies and don’t advise using it. Although most commercial pectin is derived from apples anyway, any liquid pectin I have seen has added preservatives which I prefer to avoid when at all possible. I also have no idea of how such pectin is made and simply don’t want to adulterate my food if I can help it – especially with a food which takes such care and effort to prepare. I also just don’t like the texture added pectin tends to impart, or the way it can dilute flavour. If you really want to use commercial pectin, there is a dry powder form available which I believe is additive free, but I just stick with all natural.

3. transfer the entire mixture to a jelly bag (or boiled pillowcase) suspended over a bowl and allow the fluid to drip through the bag into the bowl for several hours, or overnight if possible.

*note: You can buy a commercial jelly bag frame, or you can do it the old fashioned way –  by flipping a chair over and looping the sides of the jelly bag or pillowcase over the chair legs to suspend the bag. The bowl simply sits underneath. For hygiene purposes I use a spoon supported across two sides of the bars of a horizontal/z-fold clothes drying rack. Close the bag with a new pony-tail hair band and hang it from a “S” shaped tood hook, hooked over the spoon. I use packing tape to secure the spoon hanger and everything in place. Finally, I wrap the entire contraption in cling film and secure if necessary with tape. This makes an environment that will be safe from lint and other accidental debris while the fluid drips through.

4. after as much as possible of the fluid has drained into the bowl (about 12 hours), remove the jelly bag and discard the solid pulp** left inside. Return drained fluid to the clean stainless steel pan.

*note: Most experts advise you MUST NOT squeeze the bag, or else the resulting jelly will be cloudy. Although, some people do say that you can squeeze it a little bit as long as you are careful… I have so far been afraid to tempt fate, so cannot comment if squeezing is OK. However, for all my hard work, this season’s harvest yielded only 5 jars. Disappointing (although in my defence, I did give much of the crop to a neighbour). Next year I am going to chop the medlars much finer to try and obtain more drained liquid without squeezing.

**Also if you want to make use of the solid fruit pulp rather than discard it, it is possible make a chutney or sweet pie filling from the solids. You will need to take greater care trimming away stems and seeds when initially chopping, however.

5. add the sugar. Stir until dissolved. Bring to a boil, stirring steadily. Boil until the jelly reaches setting point – this could typically be anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes. (if you are unaware of how to check for gel/setting point in preserves, look up the ways to test for set, such as the saucer gel test)

6. bottle jelly and pasteurise, by submerging jars into boiling water which covers the jars by about two inches, bringing back to a boil for 5-6 minutes.


1. Pick the fruit between the last week in October and third week in November (preferably after a hard frost). Check the tree daily to see that they have not started to fall in any great numbers (you can use windfalls, but I tend not to trust them. As the little trees tend to bare prolificlly, it probably won’t be necessary, unless you’ve left it too late and they have all dropped.

2. Place the fruit in a single layer in a tray or shallow box and leave for several weeks until they are darker brown and start to shrivel. You can cut a few fruits open to check the progress. A fruit that is ready will be brown all the way through, fruits that have not fully bletted will be partially cream coloured on the inside (fresh unbletted fruits will be totally cream coloured on the inside and have a hard, woody texture.)

*note: some people say that you have to put them a certain way up, or place then in sawdust or other media – but I haven’t noticed implementation of either makes any difference.

– Tatyana


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