Monday, August 31, 2015

The year of the Pear (Preserve recipe as well)

Fall is fantastic for many reasons, one being the ripening of fruit. Among the favorites are pears… one of the oldest fruits in cultivation and second in popularity only to the apple. A hardy Pear tree may live up to 100 years and this seems to be one very special year… they are literally bough-breaking with sumptuous fruit.

Charlemagne (742–814) the ruler of the Franks is credited with establishing the first collection of pears in France however dried slices have been unearthed in Swiss cave dwellings of the Ice Age, making it prehistoric in Europe. In Asia, the culture of the pear goes back 2500–3000 years where it is chronicled in Chinese writings as a delicacy for the wealthy.

In Greece, Homer’s 9th century Odyssey mentions the pear as “the splendid gift of the gods” and Roman conquerors carried pear seeds on their quests. The Britons, who managed to make an alcoholic beverage of anything that fermented, developed a drink from them called Perry… and since they winter well, pears were used as feed for livestock. Taken to the Americas for this purpose, they traveled with Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Northwest where they still flourish. The state of Oregon named the pear as its Official State Fruit and the USDA recognizes it by declaring the month of December as National Pear Month.

During Japanese Edo period (1603–1867) pears were considered a talisman and were commonly found on the corners of properties to ward off misfortune. It was believed the Northeastern corner was the ‘Devil’s quarter’ where a demon could enter and thus were a gate necessary there, two pear trees were planted on either side of it as protection. In Korea, the pear flower is found on the crest of the ancient Lee dynasty.

After harvesting slightly unripe fruit, handle them carefully since they tend to bruise easily. For immediate use, place them in a paper sack to hasten ripening as the paper will control the natural humidity produced by the fruit. The odd pear/paper relationship is the reason those pears wrapped, placed in boxes, and mailed at Christmas time arrive perfectly ripened. With this in mind, wrap pears in newspaper and place them in a cool root cellar where ripening will be arrested until they are brought to the house and warmed.

The versatile and delicate flavor of pears enhance every dish from appetizers, to entrees, and desserts… they are also delicious as a snack. A bumper crop such as this may not appear again for many years, so enjoy some today!

My Grandmother made Pear preserves, using the lemon peel, not the entire lemon.

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