What is a medlar I hear you ask? Mespilus germanica is a small odd shaped fruit grown here since Roman times. A small sized roundish fruit with a rough mid brown skin a bit like a kiwi fruit in texture, but turn it to the base and it splits into a wide crack giving it’s comical and rather course name ‘dog’s arse’.

medlar simmering in the pot

A client of mine has a goodly sized tree growing in what is apparently completely unfavorable circumstances and yet it is blanketed in fruit each year. Large bronzey coloured fruits. This year for one reason and another they didn’t have time to pick their crop and I was invited to reap the annual rewards from this rare tree.

I gathered about 3kg of fruit, all well bletted. Can one say that? I don’t know but what I mean is that there fruit had been trough several very hard overnight frosts. This causes the fruit to stall in growth and begin to rot. As it starts to rot it releases sugars stored within and this makes the fruit perfect for preserving.

I googled a recipe and it was much like making Crab Apple jelly

Ingredients:

3kg medlar (bletted, some unbletted ones in the mix is ok), washed and big ones chopped in half

1.5kg sugar (I used granulated)

juice of half a lemon for every ltr of juice

2-3ltr Water, enough to cover fruit in pan.

Method:

Chop the fruit in half, though whole is fine too,  place it in a large heavy bottomed pan, cover with water and bring to the boil.

Turn the heat down and simmer on a low heat for 30 mins.

Allow to cool slightly, for handling, and pour mixture into a muslin cloth (or a jelly bag if you have one) suspended over another bowl or pan. Leave overnight to drain DO NOT SQUEEZE the muslin or the resulting jelly will cloud, unlike crab apple resist the urge to squidge even if you like cloudy jelly.

Once draining is done, measure the liquid into a clean pan adding 750g sugar for every 1ltr of liquid. Bring steadily to the boil, skimming off any scum on the surface. At this moment put 2 saucers in the feezer and put your clean jam jars into the oven on a very low heat. Once all the sugar has all dissolved, and NOT before, bring it to a rolling boil, setting point is at 106c if you have a jam thermometer alternatively boil for 10 mins.

Once you hit 10 mins take the jelly off the heat and a chilled saucer out of the freezer and start testing for the set. Spoon a little jam onto the saucer leave for about a minute and the push your finger through the jelly if it wrinkles then it’s done! If not return jelly to the heat and keep boiling and try again in 5 mins. I rinse the plate and return it to the freezer. It usually takes me about 15-20 mins at this final boil stage but it all depends on how much pectin your fruit has so it’s not an exact science. Mine took 30 mins this time.

What ever you do do not leave the pan unattended, as I did for a few minutes. My pan of wonderful jelly boiled over in seconds, coating every surface including the floor in a thick sticky mixture and wasting almost an entire preserve. I have now learnt my lesson!

As soon as you have reached set point take the jelly pan off the heat. Remove your jars from the oven and bottle your jelly immediately. Lids on asap and screw them tightly shut. Wait until they cool to label them.

It’s really good with cold meats and of course the usual red meats and game. It has a wonderful pinky colour and when held to the light looks like a jewel. It tastes a little like the medlar smell but more tempting. I’m hoping to explore variations in coming years. Let me know in comments below if you have favorite combinations you’ve tried out.

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