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Theodore Garrett's Medlar Cheese

Medlar cheese animals

These little edible creatures appear to have been moulded in chocolate, but in fact are made from succulent medlar cheese. This unusual sweetmeat was a Victorian variation on the medieval spiced fruit paste called chardequince, though it was made from that Cinderella of the British orchard, the medlar, rather than the more popular quince.

Medlars cookein

The bletted medlars are softened in an earthernware jar placed in a saucepan of gently boiling water.

Medlar paste in pan1

After being rubbed through a fine sieve, the medlar paste is mixed with the sugar and allspice and cooked gently in a preserving pan, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

Medlar paste in pan2

You will know it is ready when it darkens and then becomes thicker, leaving the pan clean as the paste is stirred, as in the above photograph. Before filling, the moulds should be lightly brushed with almond oil .

Click on this image to see more on entree moulds

Entree moulds

Flavoured with allspice, the medlar "cheeses" have been made in little tinned copper moulds that were known to Victorian cooks as entrée moulds. They were designed for moulding little novelty entrée dishes from savoury forcemeats, though they were also used (as here) for sweet foods. Nowadays, antique dealers, who often incorrectly list them as chocolate moulds, frequently polish off the outside coating of tin to reveal the copper underneath. Although they look more attractive like this, they are not as useful in the kitchen, as the copper quickly gets stained by fruit acids and is difficult to clean.

Before they can be used medlars need to be "bletted" (see Robert May's Medlar Tart on how to do this). Theodore Garrett was the editor of the magisterial Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery, (London 188 ), probably the most important English recipe collection of the nineteenth century and a book that deserves to be much more widely known. His recipe is printed below in his own words.

Medlar Cheese

Put some Medlars into an earthernware jar, stand it in a saucepan with boiling water nearly to the top and keep it boiling gently over a slow fire. When the Medlars are quite soft, pass them through a fine hair sieve, and weigh the pulp, and for every pound allow one and a half breakfast cups of coarsely crushed loaf sugar and half a teaspoonful of allspice. Put all the ingredients together in the preserving pan, and stir them over the fire with a wooden spoon until thickly reduced, skimming occasionally. Turn the cheese into moulds, and keep them in a cold place. When ready to serve, turn the cheeses out of the moulds on to a dish.

From Theodore Garrett The Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery (London 188 )


Historical Notes

This recipe is a descendent of the chardequince and chardewarden spiced fruit pastes of the late medieval period, though these were made from quinces and pears respectively. Other fruit pastes belonging to this interesting family were cotoniack and quiddany, once commonly made in England, but now more or less extinct. The banquetting stuffe sections in seventeenth century recipe collections indicate that these pastes were also made from a wide range of other fruits, such as pippins, apricots and cherries.

Theodore Garrett

Theodore Garrett

Click the swan dish in the left column to find out more about entrée moulds.

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