It’s finally starting to feel a little like fall around here, which means we are getting in to apple and pear season. Thanks to the annual apple sale at the farm where Jeth works, I’m getting my fix of homemade applesauce lately – I’d eat it by the jar if I could. And then there are pears. Pears are great, but I don’t really have lots of recipes for them up my sleeve. I do have lots of pears, though, so this is the week of figuring out how to use them.
Someone we know locally has a few pear trees, and we picked a big bag-full a couple of weeks ago. They have been sitting around, waiting to be put into tarts and whatever else you make with pears (seriously, any ideas?), but I needed a quick and easy recipe to use up the almost-too-ripe ones. So…pear sauce. I mean, you can make sauce out of apples, so why not pears, right? Turns out it’s a delicious way to use up pears, and it stores well – plus this spiced version smells like Christmas. It is really sweet from the natural sugars in the pears, so we’ve been eating it as a dessert. I think it would also be delicious spread on toast or muffins, apple-butter style.
Spiced Pear Sauce – makes 1 quart
4 pounds of pears (I used 24 pears, but they were small. I’d estimate you need about 16 medium pears).
Juice of 1 lemon
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 t. vanilla extract
The first order of business is to peel the pears. I found that the easiest method is to get a large pot of water boiling, and fill a separate large bowl with cool water. Drop the pears, about 5 at a time, into the boiling water and let them simmer for just a minute. Pull them out and immediately move them into the cool water. Once the pears have cooled enough to touch you can peel them. Hold a pear underwater and use both hands to twist the skin (twist one side towards you, and the other in the opposite direction) and the skins should slip right off. Much easier than using a peeler or paring knife!
After each small batch of pears is peeled, slice and core them and drop the pieces into 2 quarts of cold water mixed with the juice of 1/2 lemon. This citrus-water soak will keep the pear slices from browning and makes a nicer colored sauce.
Once all the pears are peeled and sliced, it’s on to the easy part. Toss all the pear slices in the pot, along with 1/4 c. water if they seem dry. The pears will release a lot of moisture as they cook, so you don’t want to start them off with too much water or the sauce will taste diluted. Stir in the juice from the remaining 1/2 lemon, as well as the spices. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has cooked out and the pears are tender – about 40 minutes. If you taste it and the pear flavor isn’t strong enough, cook it for a while longer to intensify the flavor.
When the pears are tender, remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. At this point, either mash the sauce with a potato masher, run it through a food mill, or pulse it with an immersion blender. The method you use totally depends on the texture you’re going for. I like mine with some texture, but more smooth than chunky. A few seconds with an immersion blender was perfect.
Pour the pear sauce into jars and store however you want. It will keep for about a week in the fridge, or it can be frozen or processed in a water bath canner.