I´ve gone right off Medlars….

Ms Chica Andaluza, Somewhere Up a Mountain in Andalucia

Dear Ms Andaluza

We understand that you have recently made Quince Jelly, something which the readers of Mediaevel Medlar Monthly would be most interested in reading about in more detail.  A reporter will contact you shortly to arrange details of the interview.

Yours most sincerely

Ye Olde Editore, Mediaeval Medlar Monthly

Reporter: So Ms Andaluza

Chica Andaluza: Oh please, do call me Chica

R: OK, Chica it is.  The Medlar is not a widely known fruit, what do you know about it?

CA: Well, I suggest your readers check out this excellent post by Mad Dog, which gives some fantastic information about this fruit which was traditionally used to make fruit jellies and cheeses.

R:  How did you manage to get hold of your medlars then?

CA: I have a lovely friend, Florence, who let me pick a whopping 8kgs of fruit from her tree for my first journey into medlar jelly making.

R: Tell us a little more about it then

CA: Well, the fruit has to be “bletted” or almost left to rot before it´s edible.  This is the fruit when we picked it.

And this is the fruit about 2 weeks later.

R: Talk me through the process of making the jelly then

CA:  I used about 5kgs of the fruit which was “rotten” enough, and washed it to remove dust and leaves.  It tastes, as a fruit, of something like prunes and plums…a sweet, pleasant, earthy taste.

Then I added just enough water to cover the fruit and cooked it until it was mushy.

R: How did you know how much water to add?

CA: I searched the internet for recipes, which were all a little vague.  In retrospect, I should probably have used more water.

The reporter notes at this point that the subject of the interview is beginning to tremble slightly and mutter under her breath.

R: Once they were “mushy”, what did you do?

CA: The fruit has to be strained through jelly bags to extract the liquid which is then boiled with about two thirds of its weight in sugar until it reaches setting point.

The interviewee is beginning now to behave like Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther films – shaking and twitching uncontrollably when the word Medlar (rather than Clouseau) is used.  A glass of wine calms the situation down a little.

R: Is there any special kitchen equipment needed for making this jelly?

CA: I´d recommend a step ladder

R: How so?

CA: Well, you need a large jug to put the jelly strainer over.  I went to get one out of my “despensa” and could not be bothered to get the step ladder, and tried to hook it down with a metal skewer. This resulted in a large wooden tray crashing onto my face and giving me a black eye.

Almost a week later and it still hurts!

R: Oh dear, any other experience you´d like to share with our readers…

CA:  Well, it took me almost 48 hours to strain the juice from the pulp.

R: That must have been a lot of juice

CA: Not really, about half a litre

R: Oh…

CA: And then I had to boil the syrup to hell and back to get it anywhere near setting point, so most of it evaporated

R: Oh…how many jars did you make in the end

CA: Not quite 2. I had envisioned inviting Roger over to take photos of my extensive stock of Amber hued jelly, but I don´t think I´ll bother now.

R: Will you be doing this again then?

At this point the interview was terminated as the interviewee collapsed into a hysterical heap clutching her eye and a large bottle of wine muttering “never again, never again”.

Ms Chica Andaluza, Somewhere Up a Mountain in Andalucia

Dear Ms Andaluza

Thank you very much for giving so generously of your time recently, particularly in your most delicate state of health.  Whilst we wish you a speedy recovery, we do not feel that the tone of the interview will convey the message of the true beauty, flavour and versatility of the Medlar fruit and will not be publishing your interview.

Yours most sincerely

Ye Olde Editore, Mediaeval Medlar Monthly

Advertisement recently seen in Mediaeval Medlar Monthly

FOR SALE: Almost two jars of unset medlar jelly, offers over £500 per jar or will exchange for a small house or sports car. Serious buyers only please.

Home Made Tomato Concentrate

Making the most of summer tomatoes

Tomato concentrate or purée, delicious used in pasta sauce to enrich it and a spoonful in soups and stews adds a little something special. I know it´s not very expensive to buy, but if you are dealing with a glut of tomatoes and have time on your hands, why not give this a go?

I have to say from the outset, you do need to set aside about 6 hours to make just a few jars. It´s not tricky, but you need to be around to watch the pot slowly simmering away all the water from the tomatoes and leaving you with a gorgeous, thick, sweet and intense paste.

Start by either peeling, deseeding and blending your tomatoes, or (as I do), roughly chopping and then simmering whole tomatoes for about an hour before passing them through the vegetable mouli.  Incidentally, this is another method for making preserved tomatoes.  After you have “mouli-ed” them, you can put them into sterilised jars and tuck them away for a rainy day if you don´t want to go on and make concentrate. Using the second method you may have a few stray tomato seeds in your purée, but hey, it´s homeamde!

Next you need to add about a teaspoon of salt to approx 4 kilos of tomatoes (this gave me three small-ish jars of concentrate) and put them into a wide, heavy based saucepan.  You can use a narrower pot, but it seems to take longer as I find the water evaporates more quickly from a wide pot.

Now keep them at a gentle simmer, you will need to keep them cooking for about 5 hours.  Slowly, slowly, the magic will happen.  Every so often you need to give them a stir with a wooden spoon to make sure they don´t catch on the bottom.

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Finally, your patience will be rewarded, and just when you thought you might as well give up and turn it into pasta sauce, you have a pot of sweetly fragrant tomato concentrate.   Now you can put the hot purée into hot sterilised jars and seal. No need for a hot bath for the jars afterwards, unless it makes you feel “safer”.  I also add a thin film of olive oil, so that when I do break open the jar and start to use it, the concentrate or purée underneath will not dry out.

Delicious, rich…what other words haven´t I used?  Oh yes, you´ll also feel supremely smug when you tell people you have made it yourself!

Pear, Lime and Ginger Preserve

Fruity, Spicy and Tangy!

Over at Lavender and Lime, Tandy has set a Weekly Food Challenge to cook using citrus fruits.  Anyone who pops over to my blog regularly will probably have noticed that I use a lot of oranges in my cooking, particularly salads, so I felt inspired to take part in my first ever challenge!

I´m not sure if you´re allowed to submit two recipes, but I recently put up a post for one of my very favourite salads, Ensalada Cateta, so I´m putting that one forward too!

However, I also thought I´d like to try something different and as I´m in jam making mode this week, I had a little play around with ingredients. After the visit from my friends from the UK last week I had a few limes left over from a Mojito session, so I took it from there.

I love pears, but tend to either eat them as they are, or with cheese, or poached in wine.  How about trying a chunky, spicy preserve instead?  I could eat it on bread or toast, or serve it, almost like a soft quince jelly with cheese or, finally, as a sweet option drizzled over creamy vanilla ice cream.

In the end I decided to marry the pears with lime juice and fresh ginger, and I have to say I was thrilled with the results.  Just a hint of the tang of lime and the warmth of the ginger combined with the fresh taste of the pears.  Pears contain a lot of water so I cooked the preserve for about half an hour for the quantities given below on a gentle boil.  The final result left me with soft pear chunks which still held their shape and a jelly like syrup.

I used the following:

500g of pears (peeled weight) chopped into small chunks

250g sugar

A piece of fresh ginger (about 3cm in length) peeled and grated

The juice of two limes

For the method I used, please see either my Ruby Jewel Jam recipe or my Summer Cherry Jam recipe.  This quantity gave me two medium jars of preserve.  I do hope you enjoy it, it has an almost autumnal taste to it – I think it must be the ginger!