The pretty pear pictured above has an interesting history – which of course I’m going to tell you. Back when I was selecting the fruit trees for my yard, I wanted some pear trees, since pears do well here in the Pacific Northwest. Those of us with fruit trees in our yards more or less trust that the trees we buy are what the tag said they were – but if you think they always are true to tag, please pardon me while I just smile.
Usually, there are few obvious clues to tell you that you really have a Bartlett -if that’s what the tag said it was- unless, years later, the characteristics of your supposed fruit simply don’t match the fruit on your tree. And that was the case with my supposed new Kieffer pear, a tree I ordered to be a pollinator, and not so much for its fruit. As you can see from the pic above, the fruit of this tree was rather beautiful, if not cute and dainty – but the fruit of the Kieffer pear is often described as ugly, big and rough. That was my first clue that perhaps I had not received a true Kieffer, but if not, then what was it?
Once I had a few good pics of the fruit, it didn’t take very much research and communication on the web to know that the pear tree I had was a Seckel pear, not a Kieffer! Now, usually when you become aware that you don’t have what you thought you had, you are disappointed – but as soon as I tasted the fruit of this pear, I knew I was the winner of this mistake.
I have five pear trees in my yard, and year after year, this Seckel is my best all around pear tree. Its pears are most attractive as they grow, it is extremely productive, and they are my first pear of the season when ripe – and when I bite into one, I always say a “thank you” for my mislabeled tree.
This year I encountered a new problem – as you may know, pears are one of those fruits that continues to ripen once picked – in fact, many kinds of pears will not ripen properly on the tree, but if you don’t pick Seckel pears when they are ready, they’ll ripen quickly on the tree – and I missed the best time for picking my Seckels this year. My first clue was the day I walked past the tree and ten or so white faced hornets dive bombed me to let me know I was too close – they were hard at work eating into my prized Seckels.
Humm … I thought about this for a moment – it was important for me to get the remaining good pears off that tree as soon as possible, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to do that with those hornets guarding them! I hate hornets. So early the following morning -5 AM- I grabbed a flashlight and a bucket, and went out and picked every remaining good pear – I swear that as I was just finishing up, not a moment too soon, I heard the first hornet arrive – I said ‘Good Morning’, and left the hornet to the empty tree.
A perennial problem of autumn is always what to do with all the ripening fruit – ??? I suppose lovers of fresh fruit would have time-limited choices, but cooks and bakers would have many more. There’s always pearsauce, which may not be as popular as its cousin, applesauce, but has just as many practical uses. I make a lot of breakfast muffins, and pearsauce will make a good muffin absolutely fantastic! How about dried pear slices? – useful in hundreds of creative ways. Or simple canned pear halves – or pear jam or preserves. Actually, the ideas are almost endless.
This year, after eating our fill of fresh pears, we decided to make some pear chutney. I always have several kinds of chutney around, because they can be used so creatively – our favorite sauces for fish start with mayo and chutney – or use chutney as a great condiment with roasted meats – or in a dressing over a fruit salad.
And when the chutney was made and bottled, we still had a half box of pears left – and with those we made
Pretty Pear Preserves
(adapted from Oregon St Univ. – Preserving Foods, Pears)
4 pounds ripe pears chopped fine
1 medium bottle of maraschino cherries, diced
1 large can pineapple, drained and diced
Sugar (about 4 pounds)
Wash, pare and remove cores from pears.
Cut into small pieces.
Measure chopped pears, pineapple, and cherries with syrup into a large kettle; for every cupful of fruit add ¾ cup of sugar.
Cook gently until preferred consistency (about 40 minutes).
Pour into hot sterilized jars and process in a boiling water canner 5 minutes for half pint and pints.
This truly is a pretty jar of pear goodness – and since it’s not made with with pectin, it does not have the tight texture of a pectin jam. But it also has a lot less sugar than a pectin jam. And if you wish, you can continue the boil until your preserves have thickened well. I kept testing it with a cold dish until the preserves just began to hold their cold shape – the result was a pear preserve that when refrigerated, had a nice, tight jell.
If you find yourself with a bunch of nice autumn pears, you could do a lot worse than to make a half dozen jars of Pretty Pear Preserves – and they make great gifts!