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.