|The "Pear" Facts
Aside from the endless eating enjoyment that this fruit so generously provides, the California pear is also a good source of nutrition. One medium-sized pear is:
Choose pears with no blemishes or bruises. While summer pears should be bought when slightly soft, the same does not apply to fall and winter pears. In order to ripen, these fruits need a period of cold which they can’t experience on the tree. Fortunately they continue to ripen after being picked which allows us to buy them at different stages of ripeness as needed.
Keep pears at room temperature in a bowl or wicker basket for 4 to 6 days, stems up and well separated, until they turn yellow and lose some of their firmness.
Place pears in the refrigerator to slow down their ripening.
If a pear is too green and you want to eat it soon, place it in a brown paper bag and leave at room temperature until the next day.
Pears don’t freeze well.
To peel a pear, use a paring knife and peel in a spiral all around the fruit from the stem to the base, so that it retains its shape.
To remove the core easily from a halved pear, use a melon baller.
To keep peeled pears white, rub them with lemon juice or keep them in water acidulated with lemon.
Very ripe pears (those whose flesh yields a little too readily to finger pressure) should be eaten or cooked right away. They can be made into succulent compotes, jellies, jams and chutneys, flans, crêpes, pies and cakes, ice creams, mousses, sauces and sorbets.
Pears are wonderful with cheeses (cheddar, camembert, blue, goat cheese, gorgonzola, brie), dry-cured ham, etc.
Add diced pear to game, pork or poultry terrines before cooking them.
Don’t discard the cores and peels from pears: they’re rich in pectin and can be combined with the cooking juices from meats to thicken a sauce… a little hint to avoid using flour.
Poach pears in red wine spiced with pepper and nutmeg in a light syrup: 1 part sugar to 3 parts water. Peel the pears without removing the stems. Rub them with lemon juice. Immerse in the boiling syrup, poach for 3 minutes, remove and serve warm in the cooking liquid.
In salad – diced pears and avocado. Vinaigrette: 3 parts oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a clove of garlic (optional).
Pears in puff pastry – peel and core some pears; put some butter and sugar in the cavity; place each pear in the center of a square of puff pastry; brush the edges with beaten egg; lift up the corners to form a pyramid; press the edges to seal; bake in a 450° F oven until the pastry is golden brown; in a small saucepan, melt 3 tbsp. honey with 8 tbsp. Calvados; pour the mixture over each pear before serving.
Think blue – proceed as for the pears in puff pastry but stuff the pears with blue cheese and a grinding of black pepper. Omit the honey and Calvados.
Be daring – Sauté pear slices in butter; season with fresh rosemary, lemon balm, mint or sage to accompany roast meat or poultry.
Store the pears at room temperature, in a bowl or basket, for 4 to 6 days, until they turn yellow and lose some of their firmness. If you prefer them a little firm, they are ready to eat. Otherwise, leave them another day or two, to ripen completely to a lovely golden yellow. Refrigerate to halt further ripening. Depending on their degree of ripeness, they will keep for almost a week;
Handle ripe fruit gently to avoid bruising.
Very ripe pears - the ones that yield a little too easily to the touch - should be eaten or cooked without delay. Make them into jelly, jam, preserves and chutneys. They are also succulent in flans, crepes, tarts and cakes; and in ices, mousses, coulis and sorbets.
Cooking tips with Philippe Mollé
As versatile as the apple, pears can be fresh, cooked, dried or canned. They can be made into preserves, juice or brandy; they can be added to fruit salads, muffins, pies and cakes. Pears can be pickled, made into chutneys, coulis (fresh sauces), mousses and sorbets. Delightful in mixed salads, they enhance the finest cheeses and are truly marvelous paired with chocolate, port or ginger…
- To peel a pear, hold it firmly in one hand and use a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler.The skin on Bartlett pears is so tender that they can be cooked without peeling.
- A melon scoop makes coring pear halves easy;
- To keep peeled pears from turning dark, rub them with lemon or dip them into a mixture of 1 tablespoon (15 mL) lemon juice and 1 cup (250 mL) water.
- To estimate the number of California Bartlett pears to use in recipes:
- 500 g (1 lb) of whole pears equals approximately 800 ml (3 1/2 cups) of sliced pears
A medium chopped pear equals approximately 250 ml (1 cup) of fruit
- To poach pears in syrup: peel the pears without removing the stems, rub with lemon. Bring to a boil 3 litres of water flavoured with 60 ml of black currant syrup (sirop de cassis) from Ile d'Orléans. Immerse the pears, poach 3 minutes, remove and serve warm;
- To steam in the microwave, halve pears, core and rub cut side with lemon. Lightly prick entire surface of fruit and steam 1 minute on low;
- Fresh rosemary, lemon balm, mint or sage are wonderful aromatic garnishes for both hot and cold pear recipes
To feed your passion for pears, try different dishes with a spicy pear chutney, either fresh or cooked. Suggestions :
- Scallop ceviche
- A game pâté
- A delicate mousse of poultry liver
- A foie gras
- A slow-cooked rabbit dish
- Chicken or lamb curry.
In case of a snack attack, try a small Confetti Salad of slivered Red and Yellow Bartlett pears on a bed of shredded carrot, seasoned with olive oil and balsamic vinegar;
For an elegant, yet "quick-and-easy" dessert: peel pears and rub with lemon. Sauté pears in butter a few minutes, with toasted pine nuts, brown sugar and a few drops of black currant syrup (sirop de cassis). Let cool. Wrap each pear in a few sheets of well-buttered phyllo dough. Fold edges of dough inward to form a pouch. Bake in a hot oven, 3 to 4 minutes.
The glorious outcome of four centuries of loving attention, the California Pear is a daring new addition to the kitchen, lending itself, fresh or cooked, to the most unexpected combinations. Now, all you pear-lovers, it's your turn to play!
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