I’ve been away for a while. Does Atomic Shrimp not hang about these parts any longer?
I’ve been away for a while. Does Atomic Shrimp not hang about these parts any longer?
I wasn’t expecting to see this thread again for a while, but there have been more twists and turns. First, a story I omitted (for brevity) from earlier posts. But now it explains what follows.
There was a point in early November, when my mentor J, the provider of my quinces, said to me: You could make membrillo, you know.
Make what? I asked.
It’s a Spanish quince dish, J said. Ooops. I handed her a jar of freshly prepared quince jelly. Ah, she said, No more quinces?
No more quinces.
And indeed, there really were no more – I looked, I rang around farm shops, but we were right at the end of the season. Membrillo, whatever it is, will have to wait until next year. (This is what it is, BTW).
About a month later (Dec 6) I was killing time in town while Mrs Trep was having a routine eye-test, and I happened to wander past a local Asian store. With a box of quinces on display. What?? So, first - how come they still have quinces when no-one else does? Second – who knew south Asian cooking uses quinces? I bought some.
Afternoon and evening of Dec 7 – I made the membrillo using this recipe. It took an hour and fifty minutes of stirring the boiling sugary paste before it was done. Culinary napalm. But it tastes good. Two quinces (weight ~1.3kg) produced approx. 1.5kg of membrillo, batch #2020-ME-00004. But wait, there’s more: that recipe uses way too much water – I had to decant off some of the liquid before pulping. So, with this excess of liquid (I didn’t measure the amount), and however much sugar I had left (not a clue), I made more quince jelly (batch #2020-JE-00005, one and a half jars, it worked fine).
Ah, but I haven’t told you about the morning of Dec 7, have I? We went on a trip out to Arundel. You really should go if you get the chance – splendid place, lovely shops including Pallant, Purveyors of Fine Food and Wines (ie, not cheap). We stepped in looking for Xmas presents and…. Holy Crap, Tracklements Quince Fruit Cheese – membrillo, in other words! Even Holier Crap – Tracklements Aromatic Medlar Jelly! (In truth, I would be happier if there was an apostrophe in there, but hell, well done to Tracklements.)
So this is my Xmas: to the extent that we’re allowed (COVID) we will have friends round, we will eat, we will have cheese and, in respect of garnishments for cheesing, I will be pitting myself against the professionals. Bring it on!
Makes me wish I was there instead of here… :
Ooh, cool thread.
I don’t think bletting is letting the fruit rot, though. “Rot” suggests a fungal (or possibly bacterial) aid to the process. I think it is actually just letting the fruit ripen. Or what would be over-ripen for most fruit.
Pears need a bit of the same treatment. They are picked hard, and get soft and aromatic off the tree. In fact, the word “blet” seems to have come from a reference to over-ripe pears.
Well thank you.
Yeah, bletting is a weird process - “beyond ripening” is about right.
I suppose I should add that Christmas never happened, for obvious reasons. Fingers crossed that contest between myself and Messrs Tracklement(s) will still take place - Easter maybe?
I mentioned somewhere that we found a lone medlar tree at a National Trust property (Nymans); well, the NT spring magazine has just arrived, and includes this intriguing little snippet:
Plan a trip to Wimpole in Cambridgeshire around March or April-time to see the plum trees blossoming there among apple, pear, medlar and quince. Revisit in autumn to taste the delicious fruit, which is used in Wimpole’s restaurant.
COVID permitting, might just do that…
On the preserves front:
Batch #2021-MA-00001 - an inaugural batch of Orange Marmalade (made on 20 Jan). OK, so it’s not an ancient fruit but it is a preserve of dwindling popularity and aging adherents. Made using Delia’s recipe (video). Works well - the video has an excellent illustration of how to do the setting point test, but it doesn’t need to be set quite as hard as she does it. You can the stop the boil a little earlier - I know this for a fact because…
Batch #2021-MA-00002 - Orange and Lemon Marmalade - same recipe but using one third lemons.
Both batches are - though I say it myself - excellent. Last jam making 'til summer, I suspect.
It’s spring, and an old woman’s fancy turns to shrubs, apparently. To which end, today I accompanied Mrs Trep out to a local (plant) nursery to stock up. Whilst she went a-rummaging, I took myself off for a wander round the nursery (you’re way ahead of me here…)
Having inspected the herbs, I wandered over to the fruits section and spied - a mulberry tree. Oooh - definitely an ancient fruit; I’ve tasted mulberries on a couple of occasions and they were delicious - now that would be quite a preserve to make. And next to it… a medlar. Medlar?! Medlar!!!
It was inevitable - always meant to be. One heated conversation later, and I bought a tree for the first time in my life. Medlar Nottingham. We just about got it into the car (at 7 feet it barely fitted into the back of our estate/station wagon). What fun!
To be fair to Mrs Trep, she has now all but taken this particular project over - mulling where the tree can be planted, perhaps to be surrounded by snowdrops, making sure it’s going to get enough sun. You’re supposed to plant them between November and March, so that’s fine. Tomorrow’s weather forecast is cold but dry, so that’s good for planting.
Damn. You know, I should have got that mulberry as well…
Not too late…
I found some orange/apricot marmalade in my fridge. I have no recollection of where it came from. But i was making hamantaschen, and it seemed like it might do.
The tang of the fruit and the slight bitterness of the orange peel were excellent in the cookies.
That was another heated conversation. I lost that one.
I bought a mulberry tree for my old allotment- supposedly one on a dwarfing rootstock. Annoyingly I had to move away before it did produced any fruit.
Medlars are very trees, and tend to go lovely and gnarled if they live long enough. I’d say they’re worth it from a purely decorative angle.
Dammit this thread is making me want an orchard… Houseplants are nice and all to scratch the gardening itch, but you can’t make jam from them.
Tell you what - we could start an autumn foraged fruit jam thread - or morph this thread a bit to accommodate those themes. I already have a mental checklist of foraged fruits to preserve - apple, blackberry, plum, sloe. I found some feral (tiny) pears as well, but I have no idea what to do with them. Also, there is a mulberry tree in a local park (one of the times I tasted mulberry, straight from the tree last autumn) - so I really ought to have a go at mulberry jam. Nobody picks the mulberries because (I guess) nobody knows what they are.
The medlar is planted! I can see it as I type. Now I’m going to have anxiety until it has leaves and blossom. It’s in the front lawn where wild common spotted orchids decided to grow, and where I (after another one of those heated conversations) instituted limited and strategic mowing so that they could flourish through the summer. Mrs T was won over by the number of passers by who, when she was working in the garden, would stop to ask her about them. Now she’s complaining that they’ll do the same about the medlar.
A foraged jam thread would be nice! I have one of those extendable nets onna stick, and find it immensely satisfying to make things from foraged stuff.
I expect to be moving house again before fruit picking season, so I’ll be starting from scratch for finding local fruit trees, but I usually manage to wind up with excess anyway. I miss my old damson hunting grounds.
Well that was a nice thread! Membrillo! As a (half) Spaniard I can tell you, it is very common chez nous. And may I tell you a secret? If you do it yourself (which I did, and it is nice, though it does indeed take longer than the recipes say until you reach the setting point, and it does not boil softly but blurps and makes the whole kitchen sticky and it burns badly on your forearms) it is the ideal excipient for adding just the right amount of haschisch. Cut it into tiny squares, dunk it in dark chocolate, put an almond, hazelnut or pine nut on top if you fancy before the chocolate settles, and it not only lasts forever (that is: until you eat it), but it makes you really happy. Do you read German? I guess so, judgind by your nick, so this is the recipe for membrillo I recommend. You make jelly out of the coocking liquid and membrillo (Quittenbrot in the link) from the solid parts. One recipe, two products. I. love. it.
BTW: The lemmon in those recipes is just so the end result looks better and does not run dark. It is like with artichokes. It should not change the taste, or you have used too much. A spritz is enough.
Pear butter, easy peasy!
Exactly so - and that’s why I referred to it as culinary napalm. About ten minutes into the setting phase I lost my nerve and dug out a pair of safety glasses.
Thanks for the recipie - it’s pretty similar to what I did. In truth, though I liked the membrillo, I much prefer the quince jelly. If I made membrillo again I think it would be because it’s not in my nature to throw the pulp away if I can make something useful from it. And I have to balance that against the grief I get from Mrs T about the state of her kitchen when I’m done. (Also, the quince jelly recipie I used had two extractions from the fruit pulp, so I’m not sure the final residue would be usable for membrillo).
They were really tiny pears. As big as a decent sized grape. Too small, surely?
Just means you need a LOT of them–or include some apples to make up the volume. Free fruit is free fruit, even if it IS tiny.
Glad you liked the recipe. As an ethymological aside, the word for quince in Portugiese is marmeleiro: this being a fruit that can only be consumed boiled (try biting a chunk raw…), membrillo can claim to be the ur-marmalade. It is where the word marmalade comes from, anyway.
And this is my last intromission on this thread, I hope: have you ever read about something for the first time, just to have it pop up everywhere all of a sudden. So it is just now with medlar and me. Just wanted to share this too, medlar is the second fruit on the list, quince the first: