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Showing posts with label pears. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pears. Show all posts

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Pickled Asian Pears

 

Not many have heard of pickled pears. In fact, everyone I've told about the plan for this week's blog has been both confused and intrigued at the concept. It's pretty funny for me to think about, especially because it's one of my favorite things to do with lots of pears. I don't necessarily enjoy eating pears, and the kind of pears I always seem to find are the ones better suited for cooking than eating straight off the tree. I'm sure that not many here in the states have even heard of the concept of pickled pears but I'm glad to be the one to introduce it to you. This, along with Upside Down Caramel Pear Cake, is one of my favorite things to do with the plethora of gorgeous Asian Pears that do so well out here in the midwest. 

For this method, we'll be using a water bath canning method because I don't own a pressure cooker. I do have a large stock pot which I use for - you guessed it, stocks - and canning. You can find these on the cheap online or in many restaurant surplus stores. I'm using 32 oz quart mason jars for this project, and while you are more than welcome to use that size, you may use whichever size you have access to. This recipe makes enough brine for two of these jars, so please adjust accordingly. 


Pickled Asian Pears
yields 2 32 oz/quart jars or 4 pint jars

  • ~1 lb Asian pears washed thoroughly, quartered, and cored
  • 1 c + 3 Tbsp 5% white vinegar 
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 2 c water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Per jar
    • 1 star anise
    • 10 white peppercorns
    • 4 spiceberries or 2 allspice berries + 1 peel of orange zest, pith removed

For this project, you'll need:


A few notes from a canner! You can simply write the names of your items on the lids with a sharpie instead of using labels, and they will come off later with a bit of hand sanitizer. You can use tongs instead of a jar lifter in a pinch. You can use a pair of chopsticks as a bubble freer. A slotted spoon works just as well as a 'headspace tool' for your needs. I've literally never used a 'lid lifter' before so I see no reason you need it. 

Other things that are nice to have: 

  • A wood cutting board to rest your things on
  • A few clean tea towels
  • Some good music and a long phone charger
This is what I like to call a "day off" project, as it takes some good amount of preparation and mental headspace, so you'll likely want to do this on a day off to relax. Canning and preserving things can be extraordinarily relaxing, but it can be a bit of an ordeal. It's late summer when I'm writing this, which means that I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I'll be multitasking and canning some chopped tomatoes and marinara sauce while we chat about pickled pears, so please ignore the pictures of tomatoes you may see in the background. 

First thing's first when it comes to pickling: sterilize everything. For you, this means get your big stock pot of water and bring it to a boil. I let my jars boil for about 3 minutes, as well as my lids and tops, before letting out to dry on a wood cutting board. The important thing with glass jars to remember is that they're incredibly sturdy but the thing that will harm or weaken them are extreme temperature changes. This means you should never put a hot jar on a cold countertop or let a drop of cold water hit the steaming hot jars. This could result in a crack, break, or - even worse - a shatter. You don't want any of those things. 

To prepare the pears, wash them thoroughly before quartering and coring them. Some of the pears I had were larger, so I cut them in wedges instead of quarters. You may also peel them but I personally don't see it as necessary. All you must do is pack as many pears into these clean and sterilized jars as possible while leaving your headspace. Headspace is just the little bit of air that must exist in every canning jar. Just look for the little line where the jar's threads and the jar's body begins. This infographic chart will help!

Thank you Fix.com for the help!

When you've packed your jars thoroughly, let's prepare the brine by combining the sugar, vinegar, water, salt, and the bay leaf in a pot and bringing to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add your spices to each jar. Spiceberries are a gorgeous foraged item found in the midwest of America and we haven't yet figured out how to cultivate it. I'm a part of an incredible project with Prairie Birthday Farm to grow them and I'll hopefully be able to dry and sell them in the coming years. Until then, if you can't get your hands on these lovely native spices, use allspice berries and orange zest in each jar. Just drop the spices in the tops of each jar you fill and call it square.

When your brine is finished, remove the bay leaf and discard. Pour the hot brine over the fruit until you get the proper amount of headspace and everything is covered appropriately. Tap down a bit with your slotted spoon and press the sides of the fruit gently with your chopstick or bubble freer tool to - you guessed it - get any air bubbles out. Wipe the tops and mouths of the jars well with a clean paper towel to make sure they are dry and add the lids. Screw on as tight as you can. 

The canning of your pears happens by adding them to the boiling water using your tongs or jar lifting tool and letting them process for 40 minutes. This is convenient for yours truly because it takes about 45 minutes for chopped tomatoes and marinara sauce to process in a waterbath canning pot. Aren't I a lucky duck? Let's take this time to talk about canning and preserving food, and why you should be doing it. If you'd like to skip this, click here to go back to the recipe.

I am writing this in September of 2021, during the hopefully ending curve of a global pandemic, with the US still topping cases globally. I live in the USA and I personally am feeling disheartened as I'm seeing no end in sight. I am feeling even more disheartened because I am about to bring a new life into the world and I hoped to have introduced them to a better world than I had come into when I was a child. My own life has changed dramatically since February of 2020 in many ways, and I am still learning to adapt. 

One of the first things I did when I was furloughed like so many other Americans was to turn inward and decorate my home. I also began volunteer work and dove further into my relationships with local farms. I am so very fortunate to live in a part of the country where fertile lands span wide and small farms are able to sell fresh produce that I cannot grow myself for lack of space or expertise. For me, this includes squash, fruit trees, and other things that require more space than I have access to. With my own small garden, I grow cherry tomatoes, herbs, mulberries, and more strawberries than I often know what to do with. I have found that I'm also gifted in growing sunflowers, lilacs, roses, and more perennials to add to my local pollinator's diet. I find work now as a manual therapist and an herbalist, so this is excellent news for my tea-making business. While I navigate how I organize my space, however, I'll be growing less and less food because of it. 

Growing your own food is a wonderful joy that gives you a unique sense of self and confidence. It's highly relaxing to be able to witness life from start to finish and to be able to reap the benefits. I won't always be able to eat every single tomato that ripens, nor every strawberry or green bean or mint leaf when it's exactly ready, which is why teaching myself how to preserve the bounty of the harvest has been so important. Canning, drying, and freezing all of the food I've been able to produce has saved me not only money, but peace of mind, and that is something you cannot put a price on.

My husband and I will hopefully soon welcome our child in the late fall, when all things in nature come to fruition, so I'm sure I'll have absolutely no time or energy to be able to prepare foods or go to the store while caring for a newborn. I realize that not every new mother has the ability to stay at home with their new babies for more than a few weeks, and I am so grateful that I'll be given more time than that to get to know my new little love. With a pantry that's full of the spring and summer's bounty, along with a full freezer, I'll know that I will have one less thing to worry about in the coming months. This is especially comforting for me to know since the Farmer's Almanac has been saying that the winter of 2021 will be one of the coldest and most bitter we've had in years. 

What does this have to do with you? Nothing, really. I suppose I'm telling you this because I want to share with you a piece of my own situation, in case you relate, and so that you may better understand why a full pantry with homemade canned goods that you've created with your own two hands will be beneficial to you. I personally don't want to be going out to the store in the middle of a cold winter and I doubt that you will, either. Canned and pickled fruit doesn't always sound like the best thing ever, but it's going to provide you with much-needed vitamins during those colder months when you're going to want a reminder of the summer.

When your timer goes off, remove your jars from the water bath and set them upon your wooden cutting board. Do not under any circumstances stick these in a cold area, especially the fridge, for at least 24 hours. What you'll want to do next is to move them to a place in the kitchen that they will be undisturbed and cover your jars with a clean tea towel. While you're cleaning up, don't be alarmed if you hear bubbling or popping sounds coming from the jars. This is the sound of air leaving and everything compressing and decompressing in the right way. This is all a good sign!

The next day, give your jars a good wipe and label them accordingly. Like I mentioned earlier, you can forego the bought labels and simply write the names and dates of the items on the top of the jars with a permanent marker. Don't worry - they'll come off using hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol when you're ready to reuse them! Store the jars in a cool, dark place until you're ready to eat...I recommend at least waiting a week to get some good pickling flavor in there, but this will stay good for at least 6 months in the cabinet. You'll know if things go bad if the seal on the jar pops, if it starts going cloudy, or if the jar starts leaking for any reason. Otherwise, keep it cool! I will admit, though, I've got pickled fruits, jams, and jellies in my cabinet from two years ago that are still good. Please refrigerate after opening, though! And do try to use within the same month...



I love pickled pears because they're spicy, sour, and sweet, have a great texture, and are excellent on ice cream and cakes during the holidays. Of course, you can use it on a charcuterie board and have the jar open on the table for Thanksgiving or for the other fall and winter holidays, but these are just fine to eat out of the jar, or sliced up on a turkey sandwich. There are so many uses for pickled pears, and I hope you are curious enough to make some, too. The best part about pickling things is that you don't have to eat them straight away!

I hope you've enjoyed learning about pickling pears today. I truly hope I've inspired a bit of curiosity in your mind about preserving food and eating seasonally, and that you try this out for yourself this winter. Keep an eye on my Instagram, and I'm sure you'll see me break out a jar over the holidays. Heck, I might even put these straight into my caramel pear cake! 

Like this? Check it out here!

Thank you so much for spending a piece of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Upside-Down Caramel Pear cake




When August turns to September, it is the time for pears. Small, dense, mild Asian pears grow very well in the Midwestern USA. I'm so fortunate to be a part of a small farming community in the middle of a bustling city because I always have access to the best produce when it's fresh. I don't have enough land to justify a pear tree, and I'm currently in constant battle with the woodland critters that vie for my peaches, but that doesn't mean I don't love pears when they are in season. 

Asian Pears, also known as Japanese Pears, Nashi Pears, or Apple Pears are deciduous fruit trees that grow well in well-drained soil and benefit from slightly acidic conditions. They are not self-pollinating, so they need a pal to be next to in order to produce fruit. Although they can grow large, they will usually be quite small if you buy them from a local grower, which is absolutely okay. The flavor is extremely mild and therefore can lend themselves to both sweet and savory dishes. I love these pears because the dense texture and low moisture content make them ideal for baking. Fruit that keeps its shape during the cooking process is a rare treat; don't waste that opportunity!

Upside-Down Caramel Pear Cake
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, Fall Recipes edition
  • 8 oz/1 cup/2 sticks of vegan butter, divided 
    • Of course, use dairy butter if that's what you have on hand. I like Miyoko's for this recipe!
  • 2/3 c + 3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
  • 5 small Asian Pears, peeled, halved, and cored
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 3/4 c warm water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c/10 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Take half of your butter and chop it into cubes. Add the other half to the bowl of a standing mixer and set it on your stovetop to warm while you work. Add your chopped cold butter into either one 13" bread loaf pan or two 9" loaf pans. (You can also use a cast-iron skillet or a 9" round cake tin, but I did mine in a loaf.) Place in a cold oven and turn it on to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, whisk all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

It's not the prettiest now, but bear with me!

Check your butter in 10 minutes. When it's melted, add 1/3 + 3 Tbsp brown sugar to the pan and mix with a spatula to make sure that it's fully incorporated and in all of the corners. Arrange your pears, cut-side down, in the bottom of the pan, and do your best to ensure even spacing. Add it back into the oven and let roast for 20 minutes. Let's work on the batter next!

The butter in your mixing bowl should be sufficiently warm by now, so let's use a paddle attachment to whip that butter into shape. You're going to want to whip it until it's light and fluffy, and then add the remainder of your brown sugar. Let mix on low for 30 seconds, turn the speed to medium, and beat until the color has lightened and the sugar has dissolved. Add the eggs one at a time, letting mix for a full minute between each one. Add the maple syrup and mix until homogenous. It should smell divine!

With the mixer on low, add in half the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add in the water and vanilla extract and mix. Add the remainder of the flour and stir until combined, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to ensure that absolutely everything has mixed well. Set the bowl aside in a cool spot in the kitchen until your 20 minutes are up. This will allow the mixture to hydrate and rest!

When the timer for the oven goes off, remove the pan from the oven and let it sit on the counter for 2 minutes. Give your batter a quick stir and gently pour over the hot pears and caramel as evenly as possible, making sure to scrape every last bit of batter from the bowl. Gently push the batter over the corners and do your best to cover the pears. The caramel will rise up so try not to harm yourself! Slow and steady wins this race. 

When you've got yourself sorted in the batter, return the pan to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake is fully set and cooked. You can test this with a skewer! Take this time to clean up, as it's probably smart to clean as you go. At the sound of the timer, remove the cake from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes on the counter before flipping onto a serving vessel. You can use a long platter, a fancy plate, or even a rustic wooden cutting board, like yours truly. You can let the cake cool completely before cutting a slice for yourself, but truthfully, I couldn't wait that long and just gave it a five-minute rest before cutting into it. 



This cake is so incredibly tender, light, and is full of fall-adjacent flavors of caramel and spice. Pears are a wonderful fruit to eat and turmeric is an excellent spice to add to your cakes. I don't want to get too preachy about the benefits of turmeric, so I'll just say that it adds pretty color and a beautiful aroma that balances out the pears and caramel. This is excellent as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or as a sweet treat for breakfast with your morning coffee. Make sure you keep it covered and wrapped on the counter, and it will stay good for a week. I doubt that it will last that long, though...

Thanks so much for spending some of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!