Tuesday, October 12, 2010
First of all, I love windfall fruit. Second, I love pears. Third, I love putting them up in jar after sparkling jar where their champagney color shines through. But, sometimes when canning, I start feeling overwhelmed. Oh, say, for instance when I got through my 5th batch of preserves and a healthy stash of baby food, and realized that I still had about 10 pounds of pears left. That said, there's something about just soldiering through them all and getting it done.
Canning some 40 pounds of pears has taught me a lot about why I like to preserve. To me, there's a great feeling of safety in feeling like food has been set aside, lying in wait. Canning is also a metaphor for turning what's been stifled into something good. What does that mean? It means that for every time I've been stressed out, and chosen to get to work with this stuff, I've ended up with a beautiful collection of jars to share. A good many times I've known in my heart that it's not wise to talk about my feelings, so I've bottled them up, put them in jars, sealed them, and shown them off here. In short, I find that the amount that I can is directly proportional to how overwhelmed or vexed I feel. It calms me down.
To wit, the past two weeks' therapeutic canning has been brought to me by my friend Krista, who gave me all of these knotty, little pears. I've worked off a basic pear preserve recipe which reminds me of my Nana's work. She somehow managed to create long ribbons of those hard, farm pears which cooked up beautifully in wide breadth, and then were stuffed into jars with their syrup. This time, I've cooked up the original recipe, but I've also made it four other times: Once with a vanilla bean infused in the syrup, another time with a nice splash of Grand Marnier, again with chopped, crystalized ginger, and most recently with ginger with the addition of a chopped red delicious apple and a dash of cinnamon. Here we go...
4ish cups chopped pears (to your liking, but I worked with thin, wide slices)
2 TBS bottled lemon juice (consistent pH, yo.)
4ish cups sugar
1 pkg. pectin
1/2 tsp. butter (if desired to reduce foaming)
Peel, core and slice pears as you like to yield about four cups. I say "about" because I think that some pears are more watery and/or crispier than others.
While the pears are cooking, I usually bring my water bath to a good boil and sterilize my jars and rings. In a separate bowl with boiling water, I warm my lids. Once the fruit mixture has fully cooked, turn off the heat and get ready to fill the jars that you've naturally readied to fill. Using a canning funnel, fill the jars to ~1/4 inch of the top, wipe the rims with a wet cloth, pop the lids on and screw on the rings.
Process at a rolling boil for 12 minutes. This means I usually process them for 15 minutes because it takes a tiny bit to bring the pot back to a boil. Finally, you're left with just the pretty, popping lidded jars on the counter. This recipe yields about 3 pints (6 half pint jars) per batch, and is dedicated to everyone who has ever been told to put a lid on it, that nobody cares if they scream, or has been left to silently "white knuckle" their way through life. Pop off that lid---there's a whole jar full of sweetness.