The confectionary artistry of Ivan Day

Apricots , peaches and cherries look great and are abundant right now and I’m thinking of making fruit “leather”. I have a dehydrator but it’s very expensive to keep running so  I did it a few years ago and dried the fruit outside- that was a mistake as even with cheese cloth and screening, it drew  yellow jackets from all over and I think even from Virginia! As I was thinking about this, I happened to remember that back in the 1700’s and much earlier before, people made fruit leathers so I started looking around the beloved internet and stopped when I got to IVAN DAY’s page.  (if this doesn’t automatically take you to his website, just left click and highlight, then right click and copy, then right click in the address line and paste)

I know I have him listed as a link on this page. When you go to his homepage, you’ll see he’s teaching classes and also there are pictures of his artistry like the ones I’ve reproduced here. One thing for sure I think I need to start  buying lottery tickets because if I hit the big one, I’ll be headed to England to learn how to really cook!! Each generation thinks they are so much more advanced than the preceding one, but with all the chemicals, “fake” food, empty calories and the true limitation of choices in what we have to work with in terms of spices, cuts of meat etc. , when it comes to food, we are retrogressing, in my opinion.  Click Day’s GALLERY PAGE and check out the table settings for the 1600’s and 1700’s. You’ll be crying when you see the 1720’s dessert centerpiece in the middle of the table , complete with edible formal garden and Greek Parthenon and statuary made of delicate sugars.

1700’s Dessert centerpiece – stretches the length of the table!

When you go to the “RECIPE” page, you’ll see a picture with the words MEDLAR CHEESE. You will be very surprised, as I was,  that instead of being cheese as we think of as in grilled cheese sandwich, he’s referring to  a little confection made of a fruit that haas to be rotted before you can use it. Now that sounds not too good but when I saw the picture of all those lovely molds, if he made it, I ‘d sure give it the ol’ college try to eat it :o).

Medlar Cheese- better than gummy bears, wouldn’t you say?

Mr. Day shows you how to “blet” the fruit and then how to make the paste for the molds. He also reprinted the receipt which comes from Theodore Garrett, 19th century editor of the Encyclopedia of Practical Cookery. Sounds like he was the Betty Crocker of his time.

“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 )

The best part is that this is a descendant of medieval cookery and very popular in the Georgian period as well. Now I, myself,  don’t think I’m going to find any medlars but wonder if the wild persimmons we have around here might fit the bill. I think it may be better in the long run to get some lovely peaches and make some tasty , if ugly, fruit leather for my lunches very soon. Martha Stewart has a nice recipe and her directions are always exact. She said you can use any fruits, even if they are bruised and get tasty results.

CRANBERRY/APPLE (or any other fruit)

Martha Stewart Living, September 2007

  • Yield Makes two 13-by-9-inch sheets


  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 3 pounds (5 to 6 medium) baking apples, such as Gala or Macoun, peeled, cored, and chopped (8 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
  • 1/3 cup pasteurized apple juice or cider  (I’m doing peaches so I’m using peach nectar)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Generously coat two 13-by-9-inch rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray, and line with a Silpat baking mat if desired.
  2. Working in batches, puree apples, cranberries, apple juice or cider, lemon juice, honey, and sugar in a blender. Pour into a bowl to combine.
  3. Divide puree between prepared pans. Let stand 1 minute, then drain excess liquid. Smooth with an offset spatula. (The puree should be almost 1/4 inch thick.) Bake, with oven door open slightly, until dry to the touch (but not browned), about 6 hours. Close oven door, turn off oven, and let dry overnight in the oven. (Fruit leather should be stiff, but still pliable.)
  4. Remove fruit leather from pans. Trim uneven edges, cut into desired size, and roll up if desired. Fruit leather can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

More about fruit “cheeses” can be found here (August 2012)