My first year back in Kent – after over twenty years away – has been extraordinary, not least for the incredible fruit glut brought about by the bizarre weather conditions we’ve had.
I’ve never seen, let alone picked or processed, so much fruit in my life. So much so that, frankly, I’ve struggled to keep up with it all. The acquisition of a third (yes, you read that right) freezer relieved some of the pressure, but still the fruit keeps coming.
Now, following hard on the peels of quinces are the fruit often mentioned in the same breath, and similarly evocative of autumn and times past – medlars. When we planted the garden earlier this year, a medlar was part of our grand scheme. It’s doing fine thus far, but I think it’ll be a while before we see any fruit from it. I was therefore thrilled to find medlars at the wonderful permanent farmers’ market in Canterbury, the Goods Shed, and quickly bagged a couple of kilos.
And then – the waiting game. While medlars can be used unbletted, their flavour is much improved by waiting for the rot to set in. Two weeks after I bought them, they were pretty much ready to go.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that medlars – rather like rosehips (medlars are, in fact, related to roses) – aren’t the juiciest of fruits. For that reason, they often have apples or quinces added to them in order to make jelly or ‘cheese’.
But, like quinces, their flavour is unique – somewhere between apples, dates, custard, and caramel is the nearest I can come to it – and I was keen to preserve that very special essence. To that end, I opted to make syrup from them. I cooked all 1.8kgs of them, let them drip through muslin overnight, and then added some unrefined caster sugar to the resultant juice (at a ratio of about 200g to 600mls – but add to taste).
A few stirs over a medium hob later, and I had my syrup. All 250mls of it. As beautiful as amber, and – from a cost/yield analysis perspective – almost as precious…
My next dilemma is to decide how best to use it. I’m thinking along the lines of soaking madeleines or friands with it – what do you think?