If you have a well-producing fruit tree in your yard, you’ll relate to my current state of mind about pears. I LOVE pears. I love them fresh, slurped out of a spoon, cooked up in a tart, or a muffin or frozen into ice cream. And right now, my pear tree is going bonkers. Everyday, I’m getting more and more pears. They are piling up and taking over my kitchen and I’m running out of ideas of what to do with them. Soon, despite my love, I’ll be sick to death of their sight. And then, one day a couple of weeks from now, they will be all gone, and I’ll be sad that they are all over!
But, thanks to a little inspiration from Sugar High Friday, I’ll have some tucked away for later. I was so excited when I saw that Nicky of the most beautiful Delicious Days blog had chosen canning for the theme this month. Up until a few weeks ago, I had never canned anything. I just hadn’t gotten up the gumption to get over my fear of poisoning everyone if I got the whole canning process wrong. It just seemed more exacting and complex than my haphazard cooking skills could allow.
However, I’m thrilled to say that I was wrong. Yes, you have to boil water and make sure that you sterilize everything well… but the beauty of the canning tops is that you know if you’ve gotten it right! If you don’t have a good seal, the lid won’t lie completely flat. How easy is that!
So, with canning under my belt and pears by the pot load, I made up some pear preserves. My first jam attempts I didn’t have any pectin so I piled on the sugar. It made for a set, edible concoction… but too sweet for my tastes. Using pectin means you can sweeten to taste… and my pears were pretty sweet already so didn’t need much. To give the preserves a bit more of an interesting flavor, I added cloves and black pepper to the mix. The result is a lightly sweet, warm-tasting spread, almost like a bite of pear pie. There’s just a tiny bit of heat from the peppercorns, not enough to be spicy but just enough to feel it in the back of your throat.
True to form on my recipe though, I didn’t do a particularly good job at measuring anything. My rough recipe combines pears (cored and peeled), lemon juice, cane sugar, pectin, whole cloves and whole peppercorns. Boil it all up rapidly until the pears are beginning to lose their form, then can them up after properly sterilizing the jars. The pectin will help it set without a lot of fuss.
I served mine up with a wonderful walnut bread that I got from Amy of Cooking with Amy on her recent trip up to Seattle. (Thanks Amy!) Paired with the bread and some goat cheese from the Sea Breeze farm on Vashon Island, it’s a great little treat… I can’t wait to pop open another jar late in the fall to bring back the memories of summer.