It seems so strange talking about a couple of months ago as “last year”.
How and ever….
Last year, I had a bumper crop of apples and pears. Not a whole heap else (although we did get a bit of rhubarb). But lots of apples and pears at any rate. Mr. Fairweather envisioned tarts galore. I decided there was only so many days in a row that I could make and eat tarts and only so long I could look at bags of these things decorating my kitchen and table. The current living quarters are cosy and perfect for two of us, but not so great with the Little Paddler’s arrival. But this post is not about house building. It’s about food. Apples and pears to be specific. They were everywhere. I was going to have to preserve some of this fine produce or watch it go to waste. So I did what it seems I do best. I procrastinated and then I experimented a bit.
The apples we simply peeled and cored and chopped up. The rhubarb similarly was washed and chopped. These were labelled (because I have learnt lessons from the past) and flung in to the freezer for various baked recipes at a later date. If they are going to be baked into something delicious, they don’t need to retain shape when cooking so freezing (in my book) is fine.
The pears I had bigger plans for. These pears are huge. I thought they were Conference pear trees we had planted until they started fruiting. Then I realised I haven’t a clue. In previous years I tried leaving them to ripen on the tree only to learn that pears don’t ripen on the tree. They mature and fall off and ripen on the ground. You bring them indoors let them ripen on the windowsill for anything from a couple of days to a few weeks. Eat when they have softened. They won’t store well soft. I haven’t got enough room on windowsills for pears. My windowsills are covered in experiments aka pots of plants varying from struggling to thriving and anywhere in between. What’s a girl to do? Wait for it….
I am a big fan of a pear and almond upside down cake. I usually use tins of pears. Suppose I poached my own pears and bottled them up to keep over the winter?
“Is that really going to work?” asks Mr. Fairweather.
“There’s only one way to find out.” says I.
So we dug out jars left over from my chutney making and got cracking peeling, coring and slicing pears. If there’s one thing I have learned from my beekeeping, it’s how to make a decent sugar syrup. One part sugar to one part water. You can use whatever type of sugar you like. Personally I find the soft brown sugars, light or dark, too intense. I prefer Demarara sugar if you can get your hands on it. Heat this mixture up slowly and stir until the sugar dissolves. You don’t want it to boil.
Then you crack open your spices and start experimenting. I added star anise, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg to the first batch. The jury is split down the middle. I liked it. Mr. Fairweather found it overwhelming. I made a second batch with just cardamom. That got the thumbs up everywhere. I then slowly cook the pears in the spiced syrup until you can pierce them with a knife.
In the mean time, boil the jars and lids you are using for storage. Spoon the cooked pears into the jars and then pour syrup over them until pears are completely submerged in syrup. Seal the lids. Label and store until you are ready to eat. We tried these with vanilla ice cream and fresh custard. Moreish. Definitely moreish.
The nice thing about this is that you can leave out the bottling up bit and simply have them straight away. It’s really quick to do. And a nice light dessert. We had ours after Christmas dinner. It hit just the right note as we were too stuffed to consider the double chocolate mousse cheesecake that Granny had brought. And it turns out that frozen apples, defrosted and cooked in syrup with vanilla and cloves are another winning combination. And whatever you don’t have for dessert that evening can be chopped up and thrown in to the porridge the next morning.