We inherited an ancient, 25' pear tree in the yard when we bought the house. It's clearly lost some major branches/trunk lines, is lopsided, and clearly past its prime. It sits over in one corner of the yard next to an equally-old and gnarled apple tree of unidentified variety.
Every year, a few pears grow high in the branches, well out of reach of everyone but some brave squirrels. In the fall, the ones that have been missed will occasionally fall out of the branches to splatter down. Literally splatter. By the time they fall out of the tree, they're so grainy and gone that they burst into inedible little smears on the grass.
However, for some unexplained reason, the tree put on a burst of youthful, showy production this year. I looked out and saw a tall, 6 point whitetail buck munching nonchalantly on something in the tree the other evening. When I walked out, I saw a huge number of small, perfect pears in the lower branches.
I'm not sure of the variety. They're as small as a Seckel. But they're green turning russet like a Bosc. Not that it matters. I was so excited to see both this and the apple tree producing that we got to picking.
Pears are only ripe for a few milliseconds. Then they go grainy and awful. If you let them ripen on the tree, they're not worth eating. You pick them when they come off easily, and set them in a cool place on your counter. But not too long for these - they were destined to be pickled, so we still wanted them a bit firm.
My Bride put these up (the picture at the top) using a combination of a recipe from the BBC Food website and a recipe in one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage episodes (the Christmas one, I think).
Here's more less the adjusted recipe used:
- 1 lemon
- 10 cloves
- 2.5 tsp black peppercorns, lighltly crushed
- 1 small chili, halved, diced fine, seeds removed
- 1 tsp allspice berries, lightly crushed
- A bit of ginger, sliced thin
- 2 pints cider vinegar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2.5 lbs sugar
- 2.5 lbs pears
- Zest the lemon and put in a pan with all the spices, sugar & vinegar over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves.
- Peel, quarter and core the pears. (If this takes a while, toss the peeled pears with a little diluted lemon juice to keep them from browning).
- Add the pears to the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Pack the fruit into sterilized canning jars, and pour over the warm syrup from the pan. Seal and put aside to finish.
They'll be ready to eat in a few days, but even better if left to sit for a month or so before you crack open the jar.
Pickled pears are a great side with pork tenderloin or other meats. Or just serve them in a small bowl along with a really nice set of cheeses.
We'll set these aside to serve along with a nice glass of wine or four to our Christmas guests. If we don't get tempted and dive into them sooner.