Pear-Shaped

Whew, this is the last fruit canning post of the season—just a little delayed! These are small Bartlett pears from Palisade, and you can tell from the scabs and imperfections on their skins that they are considered “seconds,” which means we were able to buy a box for a reduced price. Since we didn’t intend to eat them out of hand, a paring knife or vegetable peeler made short work of the coarse spots, and the flesh inside was as sweet and juicy as we could have hoped for.

The first project was canning whole quarters in honey syrup (4 C water, 1 C honey, 1/2 C sugar = about 5 C light syrup, for future reference). This was quite easy, albeit a bit more work than the peaches: We peeled, cored and sliced up our pears, submerging them in acidulated water to prevent browning, then simmered them in the honey syrup in batches for about 6 minutes before hot-packing them in quart jars. We ended up with 10 quarts and 2 pint jars of pears; we ate up the last few slices that wouldn’t fit in the jars, and they were delightful, not too sweet or too soft.

There were 6 pounds leftover in the box after canning, so I cored them and chopped them up with the skins still on, threw in a little rapadura, allspice berries and fresh ginger, poured in a ladleful of leftover honey syrup, and and let the whole mess cook in the crock pot overnight to become pear butter, based on this recipe.

The next day, I put the result through my food mill and then gave it quite a few more hours to cook, looking for a deeper, more caramelized color. It took a lot longer than the peach butter I did last year, but in the end, I got the result I was looking for.

I canned 5 pints of pear butter, and had a little leftover to blend into my morning smoothies, although it still had a consistency closer to applesauce than the spreadable fruit butters you buy at the store. Oh well… it will taste great no matter how we end up using it!

We had a ton of pear skins, cores and various trimmings leftover from canning the slices, and I hated the thought of letting them all go to waste. I used a few heaping handfuls to make a gallon or so of vinegar (more on that tomorrow), but still had several pounds of scraps, so I threw them all in my biggest pot with the last of the honey syrup and let them simmer with a few cinnamon sticks until very tender. My initial thought was to make pear honey, and to that end I selected a recipe that happened to call for adding “ground lemons” to the pears, but that gave the pears a bitter undertone that I had to counteract with extra sugar.

In the end, I ran the whole mixture through the food mill, boiled it down with a little pectin, and called it “spiced pear jam,” although depending on the level of set, “pear sauce” might be a more appropriate moniker. I was mostly excited to find a new way to turn some scraps that would otherwise go straight in the compost into 5 more pints of goodness.

Finally, once the jars were all safely on the basement shelf, we went back to the farmer’s market for a few more Bartletts to dehydrate. I peeled and cored them, sliced them into eighths and dunked them in acidulated water to prevent oxidation, and then threw them in the dehydrator overnight. No fancy flavor tricks this time around—we wanted to head out for a nice long walk to enjoy a warm autumn afternoon at the park, since wintery weather seems to be popping in for visits about once a week!

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