Red Winey Pears
I'm laboring under the weight of abundance, readers, and for once, I'm not talking about my waistline. The tomato plants, which we put in very late this year, are finally sending forth lots of fruit, though not more than I can use relatively easily, thanks to a) an unusual amount of restraint when we planted, and b) losing some of the plants to hungry deer earlier in the season. If the tomatoes are manageable, however, the figs are anything but. There's been a fig bush in the back yard for, well, I don't really know how long. V. planted it some years back, so it was here before me, but it never really produced figs until a couple of years ago when it produced a small crop. Then last year, a slightly larger crop, and this year it's the flood. V. picked all the ripe and near-ripe fruit before the remnants of Hanna came through. Then he left this morning for a two-week consulting trip to Bogota, and when I got home this afternoon, I collected about two quarts of ripe and overripe figs. And, truly, they're yummy, but there's only so many figs that I can eat. I started to candy some today, and I'll let you know how that comes out. So many of them were so ripe that I'm likely to end up with sweetened fig paste, but we'll see.
None of which has anything to do with the pears. As I've mentioned before, my folks have a summer place up in Somerset County in Southwestern Pennsylvania. They're getting to the point where they want to stay in Florida year 'round, so they've asked me whether I want to buy the house in PA. And I do, but I wanted V. to see it before I made a final decision. I figured that if he hated it, I wouldn't go up there much. Fortunately, it was a beautiful late August weekend when we visited, so it looks like it'll be a go. Which also has nothing to do with the pears, except that while we were up there, I got a call from my first cousin once removed, who has a house next door to my parents' house, asking me whether I'd like some of the pears she'd picked from her tree.
There is, of course, only one response to "Would you like some of my pears?" So I wound up with a small bag of lovely green pears of an unknown (to me, anyway; I suppose she knows) variety. I ate some of them out of hand, and I sliced others to eat with my Greek-style yogurt (which, by the way, I have perfected), but that still left me with more pears than I was going to be able to use up easily, so I decided to think of some way of preserving them.
I'll confess up front that the preparation I used was intended more to create a potable liquid than to keep the pears, but I reckon it'll do both. If things work out according to plan, I'll end up with something sweet and strong that can be drunk in very small amounts, plus some pears that will be lovely over ice cream. I had originally thought of simply slicing the pears, adding a little sugar, and pouring Vodka over them, but I thought I might want some other flavors. That, in turn, led me to think of the fabulous recipe for Poires au vin rouge from the equally fabulous Cuisine of the Sun by Mireille Johnston. That recipe for poached pears never fails to draw raves. I decided that I didn't really want to poach the pears all the way, but I didn't want them fully raw either, and I did want a similar flavor profile. What I came up with was the idea to pour the hot syrup over the sliced pears, let them come to room temperature, and then store them with more red wine and some stronger spirits.
I figured that I must have an appropriate jar somewhere and that it would likely have been taken to the basement by V. on one of the many occasions when he feels that I've brought too much junk into the house. So I went down to the basement and, sure enough, there was a nice clamp-top glass jar from Ikea. I don't know exactly how big it is. It seems to be more than 1.5 liters and less than 2, but, well, it was just chance that made everything fit in it as well as it did.
If you're more particular than I, you may want to try a different method of preserving your pairs. I didn't cook mine in a boiling water bath or anything because I wanted them to retain as much of their essential pearness as possible. I generally figure that alcohol kills most things. I'll let you know how they turn out when I try them in a few weeks. I suppose that if I were more responsible, I'd wait until then to post the recipe, but then we'd have another situation like we had with that kimchi I made a few weeks ago, which didn't taste all that bad but gave me a mild case of intestinal distress and made me think that perhaps I should be exploring sauerkraut instead. It's just that kimchi seemed like such a good idea because it's so low in calories and high in flavor. When you're on a diet, that's the ideal food, right? If I come up with enough really successful new ways of preserving vegetables, I should be able to starve to death without ever actually being hungry!
Anyway, the pears are not so much diet food, but if I don't eat them for a few months, they will be, right?
Red Winey Pears
Eight small pears
1 cup sugar
1 cup + 1.5 cups red wine
2 whole star anise
2 whole green cardamom pods
1 cup vodka
Remove the zest from the lemon in strips. Juice the lemon.
Wash and dry the pears. Cut them in quarters and remove the cores. Toss them with the lemon juice in a heatproof bowl.
In a saucepan, combine the sugar with a cup of the red wine. Bruise and add the anise and cardamom. Add half of the lemon zest. Cover and bring to a boil. Pour the syrup over the pears, cover, and let come to room temperature.
Wash your jar thoroughly. Add the vodka and the other half of the lemon zest to it. Add the pears and syrup. Top with the remaining red wine. Close the jar and let sit for an extended period of time.
It's probably best if you store this in a dark place. On the other hand, it's so pretty that it may be hard to put away. If no one offers you eight small pears, you could use six larger ones. Or any number of pears of any size, provided that you make adjustments.