Pears. They are soft juicy and have such a distinct flavor to them, their taste so light yet flavourful is almost indescribable. Yann Martel devotes the beginnings of his new book Beatrice and Virgil to a lengthy description of a pear completely summarizing the experience of a pear with this statement “The taste of a good pear is such that when you eat one, when your teeth sink into the bliss of one, it becomes a wholly engrossing activity. You want to do nothing else but eat your pear. You would rather sit than stand. You would rather be alone than in company. You would rather have silence than music. All your senses but taste fall inactive. You see nothing, you hear nothing, you feel nothing—or only as it helps you to appreciate the divine taste of your pear.”
Simply put pears are delightful. There was a case of them on sale at The Root Cellar in Victoria, as they are in season and it’s there time to shine. The deal was too good to pass up, but what would I do with a case? I can barely keep four of them from going bad in my kitchen as I take them to work with me and forget them and then they become piles of rotting mush because they’re delicate skin has been bumped around too much in my back pack. If I can’t keep a few of them fresh and firm how am I going to handle a case?
Well I guess it’s time I learned to preserve/can! So this week I have spent my evenings making my first batches of canned goods. On Tuesday night I made plain canned pears, except I can’t make anything plain even on the first go, so these are set in syrup flavoured with vanilla bean and cardamom seeds. Then on Wednesday I started the process of making Pear Butter. I did run into a slight hiccup having no food mill or kitchen aid attachment to separate the skins from my pear mush so I had to put them in the fridge until the following day. That is when I bought a food mill after work and then proceeded to finish my pear butter, also flavoured with vanilla and cardamom and a little bit or Riesling White Wine. The pear butter turned out beautifully and is delicious on gluten free toast. I haven’t tried the whole canned pears yet. The whole process is quite time intensive, especially if you are lacking in all the creature comforts of fruit peelers, food mills, and other various kitchen aids. However, it is also very satisfying. It provides you with inexpensive food for the winter and can fill up an evening … either as a fun project for yourself or as something to involve the kiddlets with therefore saving you from being stuck in front of the TV all night. Plus, if you canned it, you know its gluten free!
Try this Pear Butter and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Vanilla Cardamom Pear Butter
4-6 lbs of Pears (~15-20 pears)
½ cup Riesling Wine
1 Lemon, juiced
1 1/2 cups of Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean, sliced
1 ½ teaspoons of Ground Cardamom
First thing I learned … if you don’t have a food mill, go buy one or peel all of your pears first. So once you’ve figured that part out … Cut all of your pears in half and remove the stems and seeds (core). Then cut them up into cubes (about 1 inch) and throw them in a pot with your wine and the juice of one lemon. Add enough water to cover the pears and boil until soft (about 20 minutes). Once softened, drain the excess liquid and mash the pears. Then remove the skin by passing the pear mush throw a food mill returning the pears to a large pot. If you pre-peeled your pears throw them in a food processor to make a smoother consistency, but don’t liquefy. If you are using a food mill you won’t need to worry about this. Add one vanilla bean cut open and the ground cardamom. If you only have whole cardamom, throw them in but you’ll have to pass it through a food mill to weed out the seeds again. Bring to a gentle boil and let simmer on low (1-3) for about 2 hours, stirring frequently (or throw in a slow cooker on low for up to 5 hours) to reduce the mixture until it is thickened. While the butter is reducing, sterilize your jars in a hot (boiling) water bath for 25 minutes. Once the pear butter has reduced so that it is thick enough to spread on toast, fill jars to about ¼ inch from the top, place lids on (do not tighten too much) and return to boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove and place on a towel to cool and dry and listen for the pops. The jars should pop when they’ve sealed. If you aren’t sure, press down the center of the lid (once they’ve cooled) and if it stays down you are good. If it doesn’t, it didn’t seal properly so that jar should be eaten right away and can be kept refrigerated for about two weeks.