We went to Cider Day this weekend and stocked up on many wonderful things — mostly apples and quinces — which will entail many big cooking projects later this week. Stay posted for more details on those. But right now I want to talk about medlars.
What the hell is a medlar you ask? It’s a fruit I’d never heard of until Saturday afternoon standing at a table full of 27 kinds of apples. (They had Sheepsnoses! I love Sheepsnoses for applesauce!) And there is a crate full of… well, what looked like outsized rose hips. They were labeled “medlars” and the blurb explained that they were once popular across Europe and are still popular in the Middle East and that they were, in fact, related to roses.
They are inedible, even when fully ripe, and must be left to soften through internal fermentation. This process is called “bletting”. Having never heard of them or of bletting, I, of course, immediately bought a bagful.
Anyway, I pulled out my Oxford Companion to Food when I got home and confirmed that the blurb on the box was right. (I’ve discovered that farmers are sometimes a little generous or imprecise in their descriptions. What Michael Pollan calls “supermarket pastoral”.) I discovered that they were poplualr in Europe through the Middle Ages until the Victorian era and are “not to everyone’s taste.” DH Lawrence described them in very unkind terms.
My husband, C., is very kind about my flights of food fancies. I can get carried away at the market and wind up with a bowl full of rotting fruit pretty quickly if I’m not industrious. The medlars may or may not be a good example of this. But for now, I’m letting them blett on my table top.
Wish me luck. And send me recipes if you’ve ever heard of these things before!