As the leaves on the trees slowly change colors and the air takes on an invigorating, nippy quality, you know it’s only a matter of time before the pears on your pear tree are ready for harvesting. Picking those first juicy fruits can leave you giddy with excitement, but what if your tree produces more fruit than you know what to do with? If you are lucky enough to possess such productive pear trees, consider these time-honored ways of preserving your excess so you can enjoy their sweet taste in a multitude of new ways, both now and throughout the winter.
1. Canned Pears
Canning is certainly one of the most obvious and time-honored ways of preserving pears, although it is time-consuming. Many pear varieties can be canned successfully, with the much-loved Bartlett pear being among the most suitable. Find a tested recipe from sources like Ball’s Blue Book of Preserving and website or the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
2. Pear Juice
You enjoy apple juice, orange juice and cranberry juice—why not squeeze up a glass of pear juice? Before running the fruit through the juicer, remove the core and seeds; the skin can be removed, as well, but this is optional. Consider mixing the pears with other fruits like apples for a sweeter flavor, or mix with spices, like cinnamon or ginger.
3. Frozen Pears
Freezing your pears will reward you with tasty fruit throughout the winter. Although pears can be frozen many different ways, my favorite way is in 40-percent sugar syrup, with some added ascorbic acid or lemon juice to prevent browning. For easy processing, peel and core the pears using a potato/apple peeler, then chop the fruit and boil in the sugar syrup for a couple minutes. Transfer to containers, label and freeze. When ready to use defrost as a delicious topping for ice cream or to use in pie filling.
4. Pear Pie
To celebrate the harvest of your pears, why not try baking a pear pie? Pear pie can be made in virtually the same way as apple pie (some people even use a combination of apples and pears), so find your favorite apple pie recipe, make the pear substitution and get baking.
5. Pear Butter
Making pear butter can be a delicious way to use up dozens of pears. Simply peel, core and chop the fruit and place it in a slow cooker. Cook on low to medium heat for six to 12 hours, allowing the fruit to reduce. Stir and add water as needed to prevent sticking. At this point you have pear sauce. You may want to make a couple batches of sauce before proceeding to butter.
Combine your sauce batches into the slow cooker and add sweeteners and spices. Pear butter can be made in many different ways using many different ingredients, making it easy to adjust to your personal preferences. You may use honey instead of sugar, or opt for vanilla and caramel instead of the traditional apple pie spices. Cook the sauce with added ingredients, allowing the flavors to mix and the sauce to further reduce. Blend with an immersion blender, then process in jars using a water-bath canner.
6. Pickled Pears
If you want to add even more flavor to your pears, try pickling them in vinegar and spices. As with pear butter, pickled pears can be made using various spices, allowing you to customize the ingredients to suit your taste. Pickled pears can be kept in the refrigerator and enjoyed for as long as a week; you can also preserve them for winter by canning them.
7. Refrigerate Pears
If you have a relatively small number of excess pears, refrigerating or storing them in a root cellar are easy ways to preserve them for short periods of time. Refrigerating pears slows the ripening process, enabling you to keep unripe fruit in good shape for at least a week (though they won’t actually ripen in the fridge) or to prevent already ripened fruit from over-ripening for three to five days.
8. Pear Salads
Are you growing tired of eating pears by themselves? If so, try combining them with other fruits and vegetables in a salad. Feel free to experiment with salads comprised of pears with apples, cucumbers, grapes, bananas, or whatever else you have handy!
About the Author: Samantha Johnson is the author of several books, including The Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, (Voyageur Press, 2013). She lives on a former dairy farm in northern Wisconsin with a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Peaches and writes frequently about pets, gardening, and farm life. Visit her online portfolio.