Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bletting Medlars

Yeah, there's a couple of words you usually don't see together. Or at all, really. But they are both words and they really do belong together.
photo compliments of :

The medlar is a fruit-bearing tree more familiar to those reading old English literature. The fruits of this tree are pomes, and as the word suggests, are related to apples and pears.
Medlar fruit photo from

I noticed this small (~1.5 metre) tree outside St. Saviours church and by the end of summer couldn't help but see the fruiting bodies all over it. Medlars are about 25mm to 50mm across and not quite as deep, making them an oblate spheroid.
I had no idea what the tree was, until one day Paula came by with me. "Hey!" said she, "you've got a medlar tree! You know, those fruit are supposed to be edible...." So we picked the fruit and took them home. I peeled one and tried the flesh. It might have been edible, bu tit certainly wasn't something I was going to eat. Just this rock-hard starchy thing.
So after some research (or, at least, reading the Wikipedia page for medlars), I discovered that the fruit had to be bletted before eating. Bletting is when certain fleshy fruits, after ripening, begin to decay and ferment. Much like an apple bruising, the flesh changes colour and undergoes physical changes. In the medlar, the flesh changes from white and hard to a soft, dark brown paste. At the same time, the starches convert to sugars, and the fruit becomes quite tasty.
There may be ways to hurry the process (one suggestion was freezing, but I've no back-up for that), but we simply laid the medlars out on a tea towel on a large baking tray and left them there in the kitchen. Two, maybe three weeks later I noticed some darkening patches on the skin and cut one open.
medlar part way through the bletting process
The paste is so tasty! The starches are being converted to sugars, and the hard texture is gone. We left the medlars a few more days until they were thoroughly bletted, and then Paula coarsely chopped them and boiled them down. After passing them through a jelly bag and adding sugar, they made a lovely deep transparent brown jelly that has an earthy, unusual taste that is lovely.

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