One of the first things my parents did after we built our log cabin was to plant 2 trees each of pear and apple. Our apple trees never produced well, but most years, the pear has given us (and the deer, squirrels, crows, and even the occasional coyote) more pears than could possibly be consumed.
This year, though, our production is way down and the pears are very small. We are not in a horrible drought, but we didn’t necessarily get rain at the best times for the ripening fruit. But, when we saw a squirrel running across the rail on our back deck with a small pear in it’s mouth, we were pretty sure they were ripe!
I took some to a friend who had been sending over all of her excess produce for me to can up for Winter and then kept a good sized bucket (4 gallon maybe) heaped up for us.
The pears are small and hard with thick skins. Older varieties that were often grown on old farms and homesteads are often hard and grainy. These traits keep the fruit from turning to mush when canned for Winter use.
And canning pears is totally worth the effort! Pear crisps, pies, and other desserts are delicious on a cool day. Pear sauce is tasty and a nice change from apple sauce. We even mix some pear and apple together when we have an abundance.
But, add a few spices and the pear sauce totally transforms into an absolute country delicacy…pear butter. Mmmmm, mmmmm! Just different enough from apple butter to be a touch exotic, it is the best way to use up small, hard pears.
Here is how I make mine:
Wash the pears in cool, clear water and sit aside.
Rough chop them with a large knife and place in crock pot. Don’t peel or core them. Just cut off any obvious bad parts or insect damage (save those for compost). The smaller the pieces, the faster they cook!
Add about 1 cup of water or fruit juice and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. Place lid on crock pot and turn to high.
When the pears are cooked and have released all of their juices, use a slotted spoon to put them in a food mill or sieve to make a pear sauce, while leaving hard bits of core, skins, and seeds behind.
Strain liquid through a sieve and store in refrigerator (it is tasty to cook oatmeal in it or just to drink it…or use it for the liquid in your next batch of pears).
Return pear sauce to crock pot (I usually refrigerate mine overnight and deal with it the next day) and add sugar (at least 1 cup, possibly more), cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and ground cloves to taste. Just remember to use more cinnamon than any other single spice and you will be fine. If your sauce is runny, let it cook on low all day with the lid a bit ajar so that steam can escape. If too thick, add some pear liquid, just a bit at a time until it is the consistency you would like. If it is just right (and Goldilocks would approve) just let it heat on low for a couple of hours so that the flavors come together a bit.
Then, you can freeze it or can it for later use. I am assuming that there are enough simple water bath canning (and pressure canning) video examples and blog posts to cover the rest of the story. If not, let me know and I can do a post on how to can the pear butter.
Do you preserve summer fruits for Winter eating?
Till next time,