I am a member of my local WI, and I love it. I love the opportunities it presents to mix with women of all ages, particularly the older generation; their wealth of experience and knowledge is something to treasure.
The WI participates in all sorts of activities, and although we raise money for charity from a variety of events, the most popular and perhaps recognisable to the public, is through the sale of our homemade jams. Last week at the Surbiton festival our members were out in force selling an amazing range of jams and jellies, from Strawberry & Prosecco to Rosemary & Balsamic (amazing on roast meats). My personal favourite, and something that was unknown to me until the first jam stall I manned back at the Surbiton Food Festival, is medlar jam.
Medlar, is the fruit of a small tree also known by the same name, and is native to southwest Asia and also southeastern Europe. Medlar has been cultivated since Ancient Greek times, circa 700 BC. It was an important fruit during Roman and medieval times, however, diminished in popularity by the 17th century and is rather scarce today. Medlars are one of the only fruits that become edible in winter, hence its importance in antiquity.
Colloquially known as dog’s arse (or even more crudely, open arse) due to the appearance of the fruit, medlars are hard and acidic but once they have been bletted either by frost or by leaving in storage, and the softening occurs, the interior consistency reduces to that of apple sauce. This process can be somewhat confusing as it looks like the fruit is rotten.
I’m really selling them to you, aren’t I? Moving onto the taste, it is simply delicious. Medlars taste like a rich, caramelised apple and date hybrid; there are notes of toffee and butterscotch. And this jam made my one of our members who has a tree in her backyard is scrumptious. A thick layer spread across a slice of sourdough toast is one of life’s unadulterated pleasures.
If you come across medlar, try it. You won’t be disappointed.