This morning I was admiring the amber-gold foliage of the oak trees in and around our holding.
Then the winds hit and the leaves streamed horizontally into the adjacent fields. The autumn colour won’t be around for long. Today it’s a prevailing south westerly; strong, around 24mph at times. As it has brought the rain I have retreated inside to continue with preserving.
Luckily we had picked all the medlars yesterday, otherwise the fruit would have been scattered to the ground. Our picking was quite late, many had already bletted whilst still on the tree. Even so, I should have enough hard fruits.
An 80:20 ratio of bletted to hard fruit should help set the jelly, (the unripe fruit contain more pectin).
We have started planting for next year. The garlic went in yesterday; Arno; Provence Wight; Germidour and Carcassone as well as Elephant. We had ordered Garcua and Garpek, which produced fabulous heads for us but the quality wasn’t sufficiently good, so the supplier withdrew these varieties. I may break a rule and plant some cloves from our own heads. I’m also experimenting with starting the autumn onion and shallot sets in modules as the spring planting did so well when started off inside.
We have made excellent inroads into preserving the gluts of late summer and we’re finding new recipes for our produce. Squash risotto is an excellent choice for a cold day!
Reading this week: An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade
The medlar trees are displaying glorious autumn colour.
This is the third year we have picked medlars; each year the trees reward us with a bigger crop. Last autumn I made a foray into making a soft set, cinnamon spicy conserve. This year I’m having a crack at producing a jelly.
A few weeks ago we picked all the fruit and then left them to blet in the cool of the utility room.
The medlars are now at various stages of ripeness. Reading through a number of recipes I’ve discovered that having a combination of ripe and unripe fruit is a good thing, as the medlar is a low pectin, low acid fruit. Mixing bletted and hard fruits will hopefully ensure we get a wonderful depth of flavour but also a good set.
A few days later and the lovely OH set to and made the jelly. Mindful of low pectin, apple cores and lemon juice were also to the fruit at the start. In the end we probably could have dispensed with these as the set is too hard for a jelly – we have decided that we have produced a delicious medlar cheese!
The cheese sits happily alongside the one precious jar of quince jelly and the rowan preserve we made a few weeks ago. None of the jellies is ‘perfect’ in set and clarity but the taste of all 3 is delicious – and in the end that is what counts.
Left to Right: Rowan; Quince and Medlar Jelly
I am a big fan of moseying; it is very underrated in this digital age where everything happens so quickly. Well, today I had the opportunity to indulge in a bit of moseying.
I am also a great, great fan of the medlar tree but I’ve never had enough crop to do anything with – until now. Some weeks back I picked the golden fruits. You can leave them to ripen on the tree but as my medlars were already starting to drop I decided to gather them in. The OH spread the medlars on a wooden slatted tray lined with newspaper and placed them in the apple store in one of the outbuildings, (any cool, dry place would do). They were left to ripen (blet).
When ripe the fruit are soft, squidgy and they turn a rusty brown colour, (I probably could have left them to rot a bit longer). A quick weigh, rinse and I was ready to go. Having never made a medlar preserve I did a quick recce of recipes. The medlar is a low acid, low pectin fruit and so needs a hit of citric acid to help increase acidity which in turn works with the fruit pectin to form insoluble fibres. This promotes the set. So, armed with my bit of research, for every kg of fruit I added:
30ml of lemon juice and bunged in the lemon skins as well for the first simmer; 0.5 tsp cinnamon, (allspice is an alternative), and enough water to cover the fruit.
I left the preserve pan to simmer away for about an hour. The next bit takes some time so I made a pot of tea and caught up on Radio 4 listening whilst I pushed the pulp through a sieve:
I added 3/4 in weight of sugar to the ml of puree – hence for my 1litre of puree I added 750g of sugar. I dissolved the sugar and then boiled hard for 10 minutes stirring all the while.
My batch made 4 and half jars of medlar jam.
So that’s Christmas sorted for some lucky, lucky people. Next year I fancy making some of these little medlar cheeses: http://www.historicfood.com/medlar%20cheese%20recipe.htm
Reading this week: 30 years at Ballymaloe by Darina Allen
Forget the Amelanchier as a must have tree for a small garden – everyone should have a medlar (Mespilus germanica). A great little tree with bags of seasonal interest, blossom, golden autumn colour and those weird fruits.
I’m not a natural baker. In fact I would go as far to say that if I were the last person on this earth alongside Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood I still wouldn’t make it onto the Bake Off. But my rescue medlar tree has come up trumps with a reasonable crop and I’m determined to do it justice. I found a recipe from James Martin – ‘Walnut Bakewell tart with roasted medlars’; it sounds seriously autumnal. Plus it has a layer damson jam. Serendipity.
We have grown good crops of all 3 this year on the smallholding. So – damson jam – tick. Walnuts – after an abortive start to the harvesting – tick. Just the medlars – now gathered in. The RHS site recommends picking in late October or early November but also say that the fruit can be left on the tree to ‘develop flavour’ as long as there is no sign of frost. Though potentially you risk fungal rot if you leave the fruit on the tree to blet. (Great word – ‘blet’). The bletted fruit taste of cinnamon spiced apple and the flesh has a lovely custardy texture. So I have picked them now and will leave them somewhere cool to rot. Medlars are probably another Roman introduction along with the Walnut. Damsons have been around for ever. So having shamelessly abandoned my Dig for Victory tendencies I am leaning towards – well late Medieval or Tudor Renaissance.
Reading this week: A Green and Pleasant Land by Ursula Buchan (okay…. so I haven’t quite abandoned my Dig for Victory habit!)