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Tommy C. Simmons, An enthusiastic cook
Photographer: Tommy C. Simmons

It’s a race to beat the squirrels to the ripe pears on our lone pear tree. I know I should have planted more than one pear tree if I wanted to make certain I had enough pears to preserve. But, I didn’t and now that pear tree is surrounded by spreading watermelon pink crepe myrtles. To be honest, the crepe myrtles are prettier in the backyard than the spindly pear tree.

However, it is caramel-colored pear preserves spooned over hot biscuits that I crave on Saturday mornings, and one pear tree in a Louisiana backyard just does not produce enough pears for the squirrels and me to share. Since we split our living time between Louisiana and Georgia, vigilant squirrels on the scene inevitably claim most of the ripe pear harvest every July.

The word goes out at church and in the neighborhood; I’m in town and looking for pears. Does anyone have a few they don’t want to cook? I offer to come and pick or gather from the ground beneath the tree (not the best option, since the pears are often overripe). Between my husband and me, we usually collect enough pears to process into a couple of batches of pear preserves. On lean gathering years, I have substituted Asian pears from the supermarket or farmers’ market for the canning pears that commonly grow in the South.

Putting up pears is time-consuming and can take up to three days if you have a big box of pears to sort, peel and cook. The results are “oh, so worth the trouble.” Believe me.

PEAR PRESERVES - Home kitchen-tested recipe
Makes about 4 pints.

Pear Preserves are best made from firm-ripe fruit. Too soft fruit gets watery during cooking.

4 qts. sliced pears
1-1/2 to 2 cups water
4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups brown sugar
Lemon, thinly sliced (optional)

  1. Wash and peel pears, cut into quarters and core. Then slice into eighths. Put into a pan of lightly salted water to keep from turning dark.
  2. Put pears in a small amount of water, cover, bring to a boil, and cook until barely fork tender. Two cups of water to 4 quarts of prepared fruit is a large enough quantity to work with.
  3. When pears are barely tender, remove from pan, leaving juice. Make a heavy syrup using juice as all or part of the liquid. Use about 6 cups total of white and brown sugar to 2 cups liquid, stir and heat slowly until sugar is dissolved.
  4. Add lemon slices (if desired) and bring to a boil. Return pre-cooked pears to the syrup and keep syrup boiling on medium heat until preserves are clear and transparent and the syrup is the consistency of honey. This will take about 1 ½ hours.
  5. Do not stir. Occasionally, lift fruit gently from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Put preserves into hot sterilized jars to within ¼ inch of top. Wipe sealing edge clean and seal with lids and rings. Process preserves in a hot water bath at simmering temperature for 20 minutes or according to your canner’s directions.
  7. Remove jars from water bath. Place on clean dishtowel. Cool. As the jars cool, the lids will seal. Check to make certain every lid is tightly sealed. Store in a cabinet or closet, a cool, dark space. Refrigerate after opening.

Adapted recipe is from “Ways With Pears” booklet published by the LSU Cooperative Extension Service.

Posted August 9, 2013

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