Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Boy, I've been out of town and have so very very many things to write about. There's pretzel bark and the truly perfect chocolate chip cookie (yes, you heard that from me; I've committed to a cookie; I'm still freaking out about it) and a book about French children eating everything, which I'm hoping will transform my life (I kind of sort of think it will, at least a little). There are thoughts on rolling pins and peach pie. But for today, we're doing a simple little gig involving pears.
Confession: Pears on not my favorite fruit. Every once in a while I come on one that is juicy and sweet and soft, but usually I find them too hard and dull-tasting and with a slightly woody mouth feel. But. Remember my cheapskate creed: If someone gives you something healthy and it's free, you should take it, even if using it up will take some thought or creativity. So when my friend Ronnie, who has a pear tree, offered to let my kids pick a "few" pears and when my kids (especially Mark) went just a little crazy in the "few" department and we ended up with a good 30 pounds of pears, I knew I wasn't just going to ignore the dears. I figured if I could make apple sauce, I could make pear sauce. And I did.
This is great to do if you have too many pears. But it's also a good way to salvage pears that weren't that great from the store, or to make them yummier to a picky child.
The pears I used are (I believe) green D'Angou pears--one of the most mild (read: not sweet) and firm varieties, which--for me--meant that I needed to use a little sugar to sweeten the pears. Also, these needed to cook longer than the apples before they were mashable. Finally, I made a big ol' batch, which took a bit of time. To spare yourself some time, do a small batch or throw the lot into the crock pot and go read a book.
Adapted from smitten kitchen
Prep and cook times depend on how big your batch is. For the below recipe it would probably take an hour or two (if not using crock pot), but I can't say for sure since I probably tripled it.
Cost: For me, it was about $.16 for the sugar, so you'll have to figure it according to the cost of your pears.
10 lb pears, peeled and cut into cubes (or cut into whatevers as is the case with me)
1/2-1 C sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla
2-3 C water
cinnamon, opt. (I didn't use)
Note and Confession: I kind of sort of didn't write down how much water I used. Consequently the above amounts are a guess. This I can tell you: You need less than you think and you can always add more (unless you've burned your pears to the bottom of the pot; don't do that). You need just enough water to keep your pears from burning. The pears will release water as they cook so you'll get more and more moisture in the pot. Start with 1 C and then after they've cooked for a while, add more if necessary.
Peel and cut your pears. With those super firm pears, this was the peskiest step. Once peeled, here's the easiest way I know to cut a firm fruit (maybe it seems silly to talk about this, but after peeling 70,000 pears, I really cared about how fast I was moving).
Cut of the top and bottom of the pear.
Then stand your pear up.
And cut the sides off.
You'll be left with a little square core. Throw that away unless you lived through the Depression, in which case I'm sure you'll find something else to do with it.
Okay, so now that you've got your pot of cubed pear pieces, add them to a big pot (or your crock pot) . Then add your water and your sugar. See the note above about water.
Put a lid on the pot and simmer gently for as long as it takes for those pears to get mashy. Mine took forever because I basically put so many in the pot that I had to cram the lid on. Ahem.
Stir the pears occasionally (as in every 30 minutes or so if you're doing a big pot full), doing your best to bring the ones from the bottom to the top. Check your water level to make sure you've got enough so your pears don't burn.
After they're mashable, mash them. (Rocket science.) I use a potato masher. If you'd like a really smooth puree, you can put them in the blender or use an immersion blender.
Add the vanilla extract and any other spices that float your boat. Taste a bit and add more sugar if you feel it's needed (it will be slightly sweeter after cooling, just so you know).
If you wish to can them, see here for instructions (yes, it is just the same as apples). Otherwise, put them in jars or Tupperware containers and let them cool off a bit before putting them in the refrigerator. If you'd like you can freeze it as well. The sauce will keep for a couple weeks in the refrigerator and a good year in the freezer.