When my mother was looking for a new house several years ago, one of the many things she wanted was a low-maintenance backyard with no fruit trees. I was with her when she saw her house for the first time. I could tell immediately that she had decided this was ” the one”. And I watched her move from room to room, checking things off her mental list of “must-have’s”.
Then we moved outside to a lovely, simply landscaped backyard. And then I watched her facial expression turn from joy to mild terror as the realtor listed off the trees in the landscape: apple, cherry, apple, asian pear, cherry, asian pear. Despite this, she loved the house enough to buy it and I promised her I would help with the fruit trees.
My mom takes care of the winter/spring pruning, which she has come to enjoy (on some level) and I take care of the fruit harvesting. It’s been five years and this was the first year she had ever tried one of her prolific asian pears. (See? Baby steps. This year she finally tried one. Next year she might even pick some herself.) This is also the fifth year of me bringing home buckets full of pears, then scrambling to make them into something. Insanely, I even stopped by my lovely cousin Crissy’s house later that sunny day and picked another couple bags of asian pears from her tree too!
Typically I make pear chips in the food dehydrator, which is a real treat! To make my life easier, I bought a cheap mandolin slicer which means I can fill a tray with thinly slices pears in less than two minutes. It also increases the drying time since they are so thin. Perfect chip thickness!
This year, in addition, I tried my hand at making pear butter. And, just a reminder, this blog is about failure as much as success. So I shall share my failure in making pear butter, and my plan to do better. I did everything right with the cooking the pears down so they were soft. I don’t have a food mill or large food processor, so I used my mini-food processor to lightly puree in batches. So far, so good.
Here is where the problem began and ended: cooking the pear puree down. The recipe from the Ball cookbook gives no estimate cooking times. They say it’s done when it “balls on a spoon”, whatever the hell that means. So after about 45 minutes of constant stirring, I decided it was done. Thankfully, I didn’t have enough to fill one last pint jar, so I half-filled the jar and snacked on it the next day. Although delicious, it’s not a butter – it’s a jam or compote.
I found a recipe online for making pear butter that involves a slow cooker. To make their very long instructions short, after the pears are cooked and soft, then lightly pureed, you mix in spices/sugar into the pears in a slow cooker. Turn on the slow cooker and keep the lid partly opened, so water can evaporate off. Go to bed, wake up 8-12 hours later, and you should have something of a butter mixture.
While Jay is gone all weekend, this is my big project. I have three buckets worth of asian pears left and I hope they keep until this weekend. Guess what everyone I know will be getting for the holidays? Fabulous homemade pear butter with local asian pears!