As we mentioned in last week’s weekly cocktail post, we sometimes find pears to be a challenging ingredient. We like to eat our Comice pears out of hand, but when we got to our “mystery” pears we were a bit stumped. Part of the issue is that we have no idea what our “mystery” pears are. The tree is over 50 years old, and it has tremendous yield, but we have no other data. And since there are literally over 3000 varieties of pear, it “could” be almost anything. (And since Silicon Valley was an agricultural area before tech came, we do have all sorts of backyard heirloom fruit trees- so we mean “almost anything”).
But, like many food mysteries, the proof is in the eating. We tried our mystery pears and they have a hard, crisp texture and a light, sweet flavor similar to apples with a touch of vanilla. A good pear, but not meant for eating fresh. After a little research, we decided the mystery pears were somewhere between a Bosc and a Concorde pear. Both are varieties best known for baking or canning. And since our mystery pears had light flavor, we went for a canning option and decided to make spiced pear butter.
The advantage of making pear butter is that you can cook the pears to concentrate their flavor, and you can vary the cooking time and spices to match the pears you have. Since our pears had light, sweet, apple flavor, we chose to make Spiced Pear Cardamom Butter. The recipe is adapted from “Tart and Sweet“, Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler’s excellent canning and pickling book. The recipe combines pears and a strong dose of winter spices; cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. This may seem like overkill, but the pears carry the spices well and the result is very tasty. The spiced pear butter tastes like spicy apple butter but with honey and vanilla notes to go with the spices. Great on toast at breakfast, and certainly worth making.
And making pear butter is easier than most canning and jamming. Simply peel and core the pears, then cut into 1/2 inch pieces (the pears are firm and easy to handle). Then add to a pot with a bit of lemon juice, a dash of salt, a cup of sugar and the spices. Cook for about an hour, mashing the pears occasionally, and then blend in a blender of food processor and return to the pot for a little extra cooking. You can choose the consistency you like. Then process the pear butter, following your standard steps. The only issue with this recipe is the pears themselves, they vary widely in density and water content. The recipe says you will get about seven half pints of pear butter, but you may get eight you may get five. We got five. But simply taste the pear butter as you make it and then process when you are ready. You will still have plenty of pear butter.
Notes Before You Start:
- We suggest using a “canning” pear like the Bosc or Concorde, but there are literally hundreds of pear varieties. Choose a firm pear that is best for canning, ask your grocer or the seller at the farmers market if you need help.
- To test if your pear butter is done cooking you use a chilled spoon. First, chill the spoon for an hour in the freezer, then dip it into the pear butter. If the pear butter sticks on the spoon, its done.
What You Get: Tasty pear spread for toast and pastries with rich, spicy flavor. Something to do with hard(er) pears.
What You Need: A full canning setup, if you plan to store the pear butter.
How Long? About 2 hours, with 30 minutes of active time. Canning takes time but the pear butter will keep for the winter. A good trade.
(Makes about 7 half-pints)
- 6 pounds of canning pears like Concorde or Bosc, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- Place all the ingredients into a large heavy pot. Bring to a simmer over medium hight heat, stirring frequently. Lower the heat and continue to stir until the pears start to break down, about 10 minutes. You can mash the pear chunks with a wooden spoon to speed the process. Then cook for about 60 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and blend the pear mixture with an immersion blender (or in batches in a blender or food processor). Blend until your mixture reaches the desired consistency (we like it pretty smooth, but with some texture left).
- Return the mixture to the pot and simmer for another 20 minutes or until the pear butter sticks on a chilled spoon (see notes).
- Ladle the butter into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Check for air bubbles, wipe the rims, and seal. Process for 10 minutes (adjusting for elevation, as needed).
- Weekly Cocktail #33: The Rochelle-Normande (putneyfarm.com)
- Pear Muffins with Cardamom and Vanilla (emmycooks.com)
- Sautéed Pears with Toasted Walnuts, Cinnamon and a Balsamic Reduction (nativewell.wordpress.com)
- Autumn Pear Butter (firenzemom.wordpress.com)
- Pear Compote with Chai Spice Cookie (carriefehr.com)