Many of our pears were ripe and on the ground when we returned home from vacation last week, but salvageable. Time for chutney, pear salad, poached pears, or simply sliced with a piece of cheddar. Unlike other fruits some pears diminish in quality when ripened on the tree – better to pick them just before and let them ripen in the kitchen. We planted our pear tree maybe five years ago, well Bob did, espaliered alongside the garage. We’ve gotten a dozen or so in previous years, but this year the bonanza – dozens. And, we have both Moonglow and Bartletts on the same tree. Amazing science, but not really. It’s about grafting different varieties on to one tree which is what a pear tree needs anyway since they don ‘t self-pollinate. They need a partner pear. Originally, we had four varieties on the tree, but dog damage resulted in the loss of two.
I’ve made Ginger Pear chutney, and we’ll have pears with a tangy cheese and greens in salad. My mom would layer lettuce, half a pear, grated cheddar, and a dollop of mayo with a sprinkle of paprika on top. The attention she paid to assembling her pear salad caught my attention. You never know what unexpected nuances in life will turn a child’s head and heart in a certain direction. That was a salad a kid could love. It’s morphed a bit, but in ‘08 we’re still loving pears together with cheese in a salad.
Pear salad: fresh pears and greens from the backyard, walnuts, hazelnuts, roasted beets, almost any tangy cheese, a drizzle of dressing – another good way to eat a pear.
Pear Ginger Chutney: Put these ingredients in a saucepan: one small chopped onion/ 1/2 – 1 cup brown sugar/ 1 cup vinegar/ 2 tablespoons lemon juice/ 3 tablespoons finely grated ginger/ 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes/ 1 cup raisins/ 2 teaspoons salt/ 6 – 7 cups of pear, cored and chopped. Bring to a simmer, taste it and add more or less of almost anything you like. Mustard seeds, cinnamon sticks, a hint of sage might be lovely. Let it simmer until thickened, 40 – 50 minutes. Put chutney in small containers and freeze, or process in a boiling bath. If you’re new to canning/preserving, there are good resources around, including these two classic cookbooks: Putting Food By, Hertzberg, Vaughan & Greene; Stocking Up, Carol Hupping; or, refer to Recipe Link website for an explicit Pear Ginger chutney recipe and canning instructions.
We’ll have to save a few for dessert – maybe poached pears peeled and simmered in a light syrup with a little cognac. Another story.