Sunday, August 03, 2008

Pear Preserves

Pear Preserves
Originally uploaded by monkeycat!.
One of the great advantages to working in Wickson Hall, an advantage that we will forfeit when we move to the new Robert Mondavi Institute building later this week, is that there are often surplus fruits and nuts available to take home. I don't mean one or two apples here and there. I mean 200 lbs of extra apples. Or a trash can full of walnuts. Or unripe pears.

A similar jettison of excess food led to the Walnut Butter that I made at the beginning of this year.

I took home about 5-6 lbs. of pears, which needed to sit in the refrigerator for a week, presumably to induce ripening. After I took them out and ate a pear or two, I realized that between Antonia and I, there is no way we would be able to eat 6 lbs of pears before the pears spoiled. The only thing that I could think to do was to can the pears.

This is my first foray into the world of canning. It is a tradition that suburban youths like me, who grew up in Irvine, CA, only heard about when hearing stories about the farm. So how was I to learn of canning? I had the greatest canning resource of all at my fingertips: The Internet.

I settled on the official-sounding National Center for Home Food Preservation website. How much more to-the-point could a website name be?

You can click through to see the procedures in full, but the basic outline is:

1) make a syrup.
2) add pears to syrup, boil until they are soft.
3) Add lemons to increase the acid to act as a preservative.
4) Sterilize mason jars.
5) Fill mason jars.
6) Process mason jars.

It was Step 6 for me that was the least obvious. Up until 6, skipping any step would lead to something other than pear preserves. I had the idea that once the food was placed in the mason jar, the process is finished. I was wrong. The jars are boiled after they are sealed, I think to kill any microbes that are present.

The one thing I will do before I can again is to get the correct equipment. The jar tongs are a must - I don't want to get boiling water on my hands and face a second time. In spite of this small setback, I have discovered an activity that has opened up a new world of cooking for me... and as a bonus, I can eat pears, processed at the height of their flavor and maturity, in the middle of winter. If only these last so long...

1 comment:

noble pig said...

Nice! I can't even imagine moving out of Wickson...lots of nostalgia there.