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Medlars are really rather curious – not only in the way they look but in the way they just are.
Medlars are really rather curious – not only in the way they look but in the way they just are. I first came across them only a few years ago hanging from a tree in Italy and wondered what on Earth they were – even though I have loved medlar jelly since I was a child!
Medlar trees are similar to pear trees but smaller with bigger, quite leathery leaves, and have a spreading habit and single, large white flowers in summer. Medlars are a russet brown colour and look like a cross between large rose hips and crab apples.
Medlars are inedible until they begin to rot! This process is called “bletting” and can occur either after a frost when the fruit is still on the tree or once picked when ripe in the autumn and stored in a cool, dry place for a few weeks. The hard, creamy coloured flesh breaks down into a soft brown pulp and can then be sweetened and eaten, or turned into jelly and this is when this strange fruit turns into a sparkling gem. The jelly is a wonderful ruby red, with the most beautiful smell and aromatic flavour. Traditionally eaten with lamb or game, but I simply enjoy it on toast or on a scone!
This month I have gone over the border to tell you about one of my all-time favourites, Suffolk Gold, made by Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses at Whitegate Farm, Creeting St Mary – a family-run business established in 2004 by Jason and Katharine Salisbury. The cheese is made by Katharine using traditional methods from milk produced by their herd of beautiful pedigree Guernseys.
The cheese is semi-hard with a dark grey rind. The high butterfat and protein content in the milk gives the cheese its bright golden colour. It is luxurious and creamy and tastes glorious, but to enjoy the rich flavour at its very best make sure you eat it at room temperature. Delicious with an oatcake or English Cox apple. You can find Suffolk Gold in delis in Norfolk and Suffolk or direct from the farm at www.suffolkcheese.co.uk.
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The Taylor taste test
We can never bear to leave the comfort of the wood burner on these cold wet November evenings, so my husband gets in a good stock of beer. He has chosen three here:
Norfolk Cock is a strong, deep amber ale – well-rounded, smooth and tasty. We agree with Wagtail Brewery at Old Buckenham – it is something to really “crow” about! It is made in small batches using “maritime malt” from Branthill Farm at Wells with whole English hops. Easy drinking for the amount of alcohol it contains; alcohol 5.2pc volume; www.wagtailbrewery.com
Bad Egg is a ruby bitter with a very full-bodied malty flavour. Made by Humpy Dumpty Brewery at Reedham using fine pale malt and “generously hopped” with 100pc East Kent Goldings hops it gives loads of hoppy flavour and aroma. One, we feel, for the more discerning palette. Alchol 4.1pc volume; www.humptydumptybrewery.co.uk
On The Huh is made by Beeston Brewery at Beeston in a converted farm building. The ale is made using Maris Otter malting barley grown at Branthill Farm on the Holkham Estate. The water is from deep in the Norfolk chalk from a private supply perfect for brewing ale. On The Huh is a traditional strong bitter which is smooth, malty and full-bodied with a good head, and if you drink enough you’ll soon find out why it’s so called! Alchol 5pc volume; www.beestonbrewery.co.uk