EVERY year about this time, I am presented with a sample of the latest crop of medlars. Our local priest has a medlar tree growing close to his residence, and is one of the few who would recognise this as an edible fruit. Nowadays, they are largely grown as an ornamental tree, even though, at one time the fruit were highly prized. The only variety still available, is called Medlar Nottingham, which from the description matches the tree in question.
They are a low, spreading tree with pretty twisting branches with thick, downy foliage, and simple white flowers which are surrounded appropriately, by a halo of leaves. These trees have an excellent autumn colour, as the leaves glow with shades of pink, red and orange, contrasting the green of the leaves, which has been likened to the effect of "exotic tropical fish".
The fruit has been around since the time of the Romans and ancient Greeks, when it was a much-prized delicacy. Shakespeare is thought to have likened the shape of the fruit, to a person's bottom. I am sure that the main reason that these delicious fruit have become obscure, is that they should be kept until they start to decay, before they are edible. This process is called bletting. Once they are at this over-ripe stage, medlars have a wrinkly brown skin and a soft mushy inside, and taste sweet with a subtle hint of sharpness.
Although the flesh can be sucked from the skin, more common uses are medlar cheese, and jelly made the traditional way, using a jelly bag. I however, decided that a baked cheesecake would be a novel idea, let me know if someone has done this before me! Father Robert should be arriving soon for the official tasting!
Baked medlar cheesecake
200g crushed Amoretti biscuits
50g melted butter [25cf] 500g curd cheese
2 tbsp plain flour
175g caster sugar
Drop of vanilla extract
100ml double cream
1 tsp allspice [25cf] 3 egg yolks, 2 egg whites
300g ripe, wrinkly medlars
Simmer the medlars in water, for about 10 minutes until soft, then scoop out the flesh, discarding the stone.
Heat the oven to 160ºC/gas 4. Mix the crushed biscuits with the butter. Press into a 20cm cake tin and bake for five minutes, then cool.
Beat the cream cheese with the flour, sugar, a few drops of vanilla, the spice, the two eggs, the yolk and cream until light and fluffy. Stir in the medlar pulp and pour into the tin.
Bake for 40 minutes and then check, it should be set but slightly wobbly in the centre. Leave in the tin to cool. Turn out and dust with icing sugar before serving, with some maple syrup and macaroons.