Saturday, July 31, 2010

Drunken Pears

The owner of a pair of pear trees has given us the green light to harvest as they don't want them. Now, I find this very strange yet beneficial. Who plants fruit trees only to reject the fruit? Pears are wonderful things and we planted two trees which offered us nothing this year. I hope for better results in 2011 but time will tell. So ok.... if you don't want yours, I sure do!

These are keiffer pears and are hard(ish) so off to the innertubes and extension for information as to when and how to harvest.

Did you know: pears ripen from the inside- out? Now I understand why I get mushy pears. When I buy pears at the market and wait with great anticipation for the fruit to resist any finger pressure, they are often beyond eating stage at the core. Well, you'd think after decades of this phenomenon, I'd have figured it out myself, but I need an ag agent to reveal this in words.

So, the keiffer pear is a cooking pear and you CAN eat it fresh but here's the "how to": Don't wait for the pear to feel ready. In the month/weeks of harvest, pick a few off the tree and wrap in brown paper and place in a brown bag in a cool spot for two days. I think the same is true of bartletts and anjou. Just use brown bags instead of those plastic bags. (look over at the bakery section.... you can usually snag a bag there) If the pear was picked and wrapped, you should have a tasty treat. If they are still too hard, peel and cook them in a sugar water bath.

We made 5.5 quarts of brandied pears and they are beautiful in the glass jars. We placed orange slices around the jars and there is a satisfying glow to it. I can't wait to make pear tarts over the holidays.


SJFerrell said...

I’ve been living with a keiffer pear tree in my backyard for 6 years now. Every year it’s loaded with pears and I wait with great anticipation for them to ripen, but they never seem to. Normally high winds or a thunderstorm will come along and knock them off the tree while they’re still hard, then I’m left with nothing.

Should I just go ahead and pick them off the tree now?

I live in Central Texas and any advice that you could give would be fantastic! Thanks!

Cats and Quilts said...

I am new to this too... but this is what we've learned from the LSU ag agent:

First, the keiffer is harvestable in August here in SE Louisiana. So we are about the same latitude as you, if not quite as dry.... We tried the brown paper on Monday and ate pears Thursday and we picked the tree on Friday morning and canned immediately.

I was told that pears ripen from the inside and feeling them is no indicator so try picking a couple today and wrap them in brown paper individually and place them in a paper bag in a cool closet/pantry. Not a fridge, for 2 days. Then cut into one and see how it is. If you think it's still too hard, leave the other another day or so.

Or do as we did and let them (Around 12 lbs of pears) parboil in water, a few at a time for a minute to soften the skin and peel them. As you go, leave them to soak in Fruit Fresh, around a tablespoon to a gallon of water so they don't brown. (you know they brown quickly!) Then quarter the pears and remove the cores and stems. Still let them soak in the Fruit Fresh

As you are cutting the pears, heat up 6 cups of sugar to 4 cups of water and add a layer of the peeled quartered pears and cook them well. Around 10 minutes. This is going to depend a lot on how ripe they are. It might be less, it might be little longer. I did NOT cook them til soft. Here's why:
1. You still will cook them 15 minutes after you've canned them to seal the lids.
2. I intend to use these pears in further dishes and don't want them to be mush when I open the jars in the winter.

As the next batch of pears cook, leave the first in a large container. It's ok of they cool off a bit.
You might consider getting those canning jars ready. I boil mine at least 20 minutes to be clean.

As the pears are cooked, the liquid will diminish and reduce to around half. This is good. When the last of the pears has cooked, and your canning jars are sterilized, add 2 to 3 cups of brandy to the sugar water and allow to heat up but not boil.
Start packing the pears into the jars, tightly. There should be little space allowed as this give air a place to remain and you don't want that! We added slices of oranges with no seeds around the glass. You don't have to do this at all. Pack the pears to the top.
Then fill the jars leaving 1/4" headspace and using a slender knife, slip it down between the pears and glass to release as much air as you can. You'll be surprised how many airpockets can hide in a canning jar that looks full.
You may need to add a little more liquid after you've done this. Now wipe the rim and outer edge with a clean dishcloth dipped in the hot water and place the lids, screw down the rims to light finger tightened and I hot water bathed them (quart size Mason jars) for 20 minutes.
I hope this helps. I was very surprised how well the brown bag method works and from here on out, I intend to buy the hard boscs and ripen them properly for eating. No more waiting for that soft press for me!

SJFerrell said...

Hi! This is Sherri from Texas….I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your advice on the keiffer pears! I ended up making pear honey. It took a lot of sugar (yikes), but turned out really yummy. I got the recipe from the wife of one of the guys I used to work with.

I grew up on a small farm in eastern New Mexico and every summer I would help my mother can the goods from her carefully tended garden. Her salsa and pickles were awesome! She passed away in October 1992 and I haven’t canned since. Your encouragement gave me that little push to try it again (on my own). I had forgotten how much I enjoyed canning! Good times and VERY good memories….


Cats and Quilts said...

It's great to hear back from you!

I understand the loss of a mother. Mine didn't can or jar but I think she would have really loved this life I get to live. I am glad to know you have fond memories of such a humble and worthy process.
I have never heard of pear honey... what can this be?

Incidentally, if you want to can some yummy jalapenos, use the Bread and Butter pickle recipe from Better Homes New Cook Book. Just substitute the peppers for the cucumbers and do everything else as it describes. They are outstanding. Spicy and sweet and crunchy. So good in quesadillas.

But definitely use disposable rubber gloves when handling the peppers. I deseed them and cut the peppers into "wheels".