Monday, November 06, 2006

The Quest for... pear preserves

Or, if you will, pear perseveres.

I love pear preserves, and I can't even give a definitive reason why beyond a childhood fondness for the home made ones from the elderly neighbor. Sometimes they were a little too dark and sticky, sometimes light and chewy. But I loved them over all other jam and jelly products. You know the ones. The ones I can easily make.

As opposed to pear preserves.

First of all there's the definition: jelly is from the juice, jam has crushed fruit and preserves has slices. That's my own definition, based on a lifetime of eating such. Jelly is easiest to make: juice the fruit, add sugar and the commercial pectin (and yes, I've tried to make them "from scratch"--what a joke and what a waste of product and time), boil a specified amount of time, ladle into jars, seal, and wait for the music of the popping of the seal. Distribute for Christmas gifts and sell at the local charity bazaar because the family will not eat as much plum jelly as the tree in the back yard will give you plums.

Jam is okay. Again, pectin. But the fruit always floats and the jars have to be water-bathed.

And just try finding a recipe on the pectin package for pear preserves. For that matter, try finding any in the grocery. Marmalade, apricot and peach preserves, yes, but if you find pear be prepared to pay a premium.

So, for years I have solicited the best of pear preserve recipes from friends whose products always work. Following their recipes, which consist mainly of "cover with", "equal pounds", and "cook down until desired color", I have successfully made pear preserves once and that was several years ago. I even made the acquisition of such a minor plot point in a book. Said book is still "under the bed", but I thought enough of pear preserves to include the idea of their elusiveness.

This year, we were given the perfect pears (hard and little) for me to try the enterprise again. I was a bit skeptical because last year's rendering was dark amber in color and too stiff to spread, but when 16 pounds of pears showed up unbidden by the front door, I took it as a sign and dug up the recipe scrawled on a piece of memo paper. Enlisting my spouse's help in peeling and slicing the fruit guaranteed I would be able to use my hands the next day and gave him a better appreciation of the product.

Immediately I sensed a problem. The 16 pounds of pears sliced down to just 8. (I don't guess I'll need all that sugar after all.) Eight pounds of sugar wouldn't go in the pan with the pears. Five was a stretch, but covered them. I added a bit more for good measure, sliced two lemons to put on top, covered it and let it sit overnight.

The next morning, the sugar was dissolved (for the most part). I put it over a low heat about 6:30 and kept a watchful, if not constant, eye on it.

It was evident within the hour that I had a lot more syrup than pears. I'd already had that experience several times in the past (one would think I'd have given up by now) and I just wasn't in the mood for it. I scooped off a quart of syrup and then another cup as my patience narrowed. At the end of two hours, I was approaching a pale pink to terra cotta tone and I tasted. Yum! I grabbed the hot jars, squeezed enough out for 8 cups (I see a relationship here), sealed them, and gave them a five-minute water bath.

All the jars sealed. Whew! I was looking at 8 cups of pear-gold. One went into the refrigerator (quality-control), one to the son and daughter-in-law for her London family, and the other 6 into the pantry. If you get a jar of my pear preserves, you will be on a very short list indeed.

And, oh yeah. I wrote down the recipe.

4 Comments:

At 7:36 PM CST, Blogger Pat Warren said...

Kay, Your blog on pear preserves brings back fond memories of the love my father had for making, eating and especially giving away his pear preserves.

The day we had to tell him that he was moving the Clyde Cosper Home, his only question was "Can I still make my pear preserves". Of course the answer was YES!.

He had a recipe that he shared with my sister-in-law.

His key to knowing when he had cooked them enough was to place coffee cup saucer in the freezer. He would place one drop of the pear syrup on the cold saucer. If it immediately became tacky and would stand up...it was done...else he cooked it some more....

Pear preserves...he was passionate about them.....

 
At 7:37 PM CST, Blogger Pat Warren said...

Kay, Your blog on pear preserves brings back fond memories of the love my father had for making, eating and especially giving away his pear preserves.

The day we had to tell him that he was moving the Clyde Cosper Home, his only question was "Can I still make my pear preserves". Of course the YES!.

He had a recipe that he shared with my sister-in-law.

His key to knowing when he had cooked them enough was to place coffee cup saucer in the freezer. He would place one drop of the pear syrup on the saucer. If it immediately became tacky and would stand up...it was done...else he cooked it some more....

Pear preserves...he was passionate about them.....

 
At 10:36 PM CDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pear preserves, mmm, my grandma used to make these when she lived in a small town in Texas. I've tried in vain to reproduce them, but when the recipe is:

"Get the pears from out back...what kind? sweetie there was only one kind growing in the back yard...cover them with water, a sliced lemon, and enough sugar to smell right..."

Well let's just say mine never tasted like hers.

So once you get that recipe into quantities that can be measured...please share.

 
At 2:09 PM CDT, Blogger mary said...

I would like to have the recipe for the pear preserves. It sounds like the way my grandmother made it YUMMY! Mary

 

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