Posts Tagged pears

Another perfect pairing (pearing?)

As a kid, I adored what I now recognize as a particularly uninspiring iteration of the classic poire belle Helene, which slurped bought chocolate sauce over anaemic, watery canned pears and bought vanilla ice cream. But while the idea of bought sauce and canned pears now fills me with dread, pears and chocolate are a marriage that works. What about turning them into a jam?

Of course it’s not quite as simple as that, given that pears are pretty low in pectin, which means the jam sets much better if you throw some apples into the mix. The Bosc pears we bought at the weekend were also narrow-necked and a total pain to peel and chop. So after a minor incident involving a canning buddy’s finger and a newly sharpened knife, I turned to the food processor to transform my quartered fruit into jammable mush.

And a recipe? We winged it, based on a preserve we’ve made before, but throwing organic chocolate chips in right at the end. Color is a little meh, it’s a dubious brown with very tiny bits, which leads me to conclude that it actually is better to chop the fruit by hand. (A second pear apple jam, made fivespice this time, looks much more satisfying, with chunks suspended in flavorful syrup.) But the taste? Ooh. Canning buddy licked out the ladle and left me the pan. This is one to do again.

Pear chocolate jam
1 kg ripe pears, peeled and chopped
600 g apples, peeled and chopped
150 g crystallized ginger, chopped finely
550 g sugar
juice of two lemons
almost a cup of good quality chocolate chips (70 percent cocoa)

Heat the fruit with sugar, ginger and lemon juice, slowly at first until the sugar dissolves, and then at a rolling boil until the jam it sets.

Take off the heat and wait a few minutes for the jam to stop bubbling. Then stir in the chocolate chips and bottle in sterilized jars.

Store in the fridge. (I suspect the chocolate would go odd if you tried waterbathing this jam, so we didn’t risk that one.)

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Chutney with a kick

For three years in a row we’ve made a curried apple date chutney from one of my favorite recipe books and it seems to vary each year depending on the apples, the vinegar and maybe the mood of the chefs. One year we used empire apples, which didn’t break down properly, and one year we used curry powder instead of curry paste and I complained that the finished product was a notch too bland and a notch and a half too sweet.

This year I dared buy the “hot” curry paste from the market, and used a very generous three tablespoons when canning buddy wasn’t looking. We cut the sugar a little, cut the Macintosh apples up nice and small and used a mix of cider vinegar and white vinegar because it’s all I had in the house.

And this is a chutney to die for. The dates and most of the apples melt away into a dark amber paste, with hunks of buttery soft white apple to add to the color and the texture. Even fresh from the pan it was glorious, with a beautiful lingering afterburn. I had the stuff that wouldn’t fit in our 14 jars it in a lunchtime sandwich, with brown rice bread and 7-year old cheddar, and it was so good that I had a second sandwich almost immediately after. And there are seven jars apiece to look forward to.

Serious yummm.

Chutneys always taste better after a while, but the provisional rating has to be high. 4-1/2 (out of 5) perhaps.

Recipe to follow, when I get the recipe book back from canning buddy.

From there we moved on to a pear-apple-ginger preserve from the same book, because it’s the pear-apple season, and it’s never the wrong season for ginger. We upped the ginger (of course) and added a teaspoon of five-spice because that’s my spice of the moment after the stunning successes of a few plum jams.

The results are good, but not as good as the chutney. The pears were not quite ripe, and the apples didn’t melt away to anything particular at all, leaving a well-set jam that’s actually a little lumpier than I would have liked, with a linger of crunch from a fruit that might be either apple or pear. It’s super-sweet as well, but works like a charm on plain, unsweetened yogurt.

Provisional rating. Probably a 3 (out of 5)

But this one has potential. I want to try it again, with a handful of cranberries for a sourish bite.

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Pears ‘n ginger

Access to a well-endowed pear tree does require a certain creativity, and while last week’s five-spice pear chutney is getting a medium-high rating after a far-too-early taste test, it seemed sensible to ring the changes a little rather than making the same untried recipe twice.

But the recipes for pear-ginger jam, my want-to-do recipe for this weekend, were just all over the map. There was a preserve that called for seven cups of pear and one of sugar (how is that one going to set?), and there was one calling for four cups of pears and seven of sugar, which seemed like a recipe for sugar overload to me — the pears are ripe and they are already very sweet.

So I decided to improvise.

First ingredient was a bowl of somewhat small crabapples we gleaned from a Toronto roadside tree a week or so ago. They were not really red enough (or big enough) to make crabapple jelly, but I figured I could boil them with water and use that liquid to add a little kick and a crabapple pectin set. The rest of the recipe were based on the Bernadin cook book, but the changes were beyond a tweak.

Pear ginger jam sauce
1 cup crabapple liquid (which was what remained after simmering those babies with water for 40 minutes or so and then letting them drip in a jelly bag for a couple of hours.)
5 cups pears, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup of finely chopped ginger root
4 cups sugar (I think it was a little less than that in the end)

Cook pears with crabapple liquid and lemon juice for 10 minutes until they are pretty soft. Add sugar and bring to rolling boil until it sets. That took about another 10 minutes. Bottle in clean, sterilized jars. Seal and water bath for 10 minutes.

The result. Four jars of a golden jam sauce with chunks of paler pear. It’s sweet, with a strong pear taste and a definite ginger kick.

Did I ever say how much I like ginger?

But it’s also several notches notch too runny, almost a syrup rather than a jam. Maybe I didn’t boil the crabapples long enough, or let them drip all the pectin out of the pulp before I got bored and started cooking the jam. Or maybe the set I thought I got when I drizzled some onto a cool saucer wasn’t really a set at all.

Let’s call this a pear, ginger sauce, all ready for pancakes or ice cream.

Pear ginger jam sauce: 3 (out of 5). It gets five out of five for taste, loses two for being a sauce rather than a jam.

Pear five-spice chutney: 3-1/2 (out of five). Points for taste, color and texture, but this one is a couple of notches too sweet.

Anyone want a jar of pear ginger syrup/sauce?

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Pears, pickles and an (old) new stove

Is it logical to get really, really excited about a second-hand stove?

But after cursing madly for a year about the pathetic inability of a new ceramic topped stove to hold a rolling boil, and hence create a jam that actually sets, we took the gas-powered route this week, swapping the almost new stove out for a far older one from the spouse’s old home and getting ready for the instant responsiveness that goes with gas. And after a single burst of making things, I am proud to say that it works. The stove top is big enough to fit both a preserving kettle and a canning saucepan, which is always a good thing, and the ingredients went from boil to simmer in a tiny twist of a dial.

The recipe — a surprisingly simple pear chutney with chinese five-spice as its only seasoning, was an effort to use up the treeload of pears that’s filling up the basement and the fridge right now. It ended up a gentle tawny brown, with white flecks from the garlic and red flecks from the chile. And while it tastes a little over sweet right now, I’m assuming it will mellow with age.

From that Costco find, The Complete Guide to Pickling

8 cups chopped peeled pears (we sort of lost count of this one, it might have been eight, or seven, or perhaps nine)
1-1/2 cups finely chopped onions
4 cloves minced garlic (they were very small cloves, so we used eight)
1 hot pepper, seeded and minced (very large pepper, so we used half)
1-1/2 cups sugar (will cut the sugar next time)
1-1/2 tsp salt (recipe said pickling salt, used regular. What’s the difference?)
1-1/2 tsp five spice powder (fresh from the Asian supermarket, smelled yummy)
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup rice vinegar

Simmer ingredients together in a large saucepan until the mix is thick enough to mound on a spoon. Bottle in sterilized jars, making sure to remove the air pockets and wipe down the rims before you seal it. Simmer in a water bath for 10 minutes if you want to be really sure that there won’t be nasty bugs.

Anyone got any clues what to do with the next dozen pounds of pears?

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Can you have too many chunks?

The chutneys have been disappearing at a seriously gratifying rate, what with gifting, cheese sandwiches and meals that pair well with their sourness (Spanish omelet was one somewhat surprising example). But the last two that I opened have been somewhat on the chunky side, with fruit that never disintegrated into a mush.

That begs a number of questions: Was I just too lazy to chop the ingredients up small? Is this the way it’s supposed to be anyway? And how do you fit a chunky chutney into a sandwich, without the chunks falling out?

The first was a pear and green tomato recipe from that Australian book, and while the color was a little disappointing (very, very brown), I liked the taste of almost-ripe Bosc pear, blended with sharp vinegar and oodles of crunchy mustard seeds. Most recipes want a teaspoon of mustard seeds. This one demanded a quarter of a cup. (Green tomatoes, I must admit, don’t have much taste. I suspect they were there as padding.)

Sadly it was all gone before I could get a picture.

The second, from earlier in the year, is proof that chutney-making really can be a year-round operation.  It’s a rhubarb tomato chutney, made as the arrival of rhubarb at the farmers’ market signalled that spring might actually come one day. It has heavy overtones of cumin, cloves and cardamon and a nice garlicky bite, with the chunky rhubarb adding sharpness rather than taste.

This time I got the picture before the chutney disappeared, although the color has more brown and less orange than shows on my computer screen.


Pear green tomato chutney 3-1/2 stars (out of five). It scores well for taste; loses points for color.

Rhubarb tomato chutney also 3-1/2 stars. It scores well on the spices, which really complement the sourness of the rhubarb, but at the end of the day, the pear-based offering just tastes better.

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