Friday, August 24, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Pears, oh my! – August 24, 2012

Each Fall, John and I make the pilgrimage to Reed Valley Orchard near Paris, Kentucky to buy apples.  We don’t do the picturesque thing of picking our own apples because I’ve found you get a better deal by buying a bag of grade out apples for around $9.  Each apple is imperfect in some way, but that is fine for my plans of putting them up for the winter.  This year, John talked me into purchasing a second bag of Asian pears, so we really had to work all weekend to figure out how to use them.

First, I pick through the pile and save the best apples for eating.  I put these in an airtight bag in the vegetable drawer of the fridge and they last several months.  I was frightened to learn at the orchard that most of the apples you purchase in the grocery are actually over a year old, so if kept cold apples last quite a while.  The pears do not last as long because they keep maturing after they have been picked, so I pick a few of those for eating and put out for everyone to see.  My favorite thing to do with apples and pears is make a salad.  I love Waldorf salad with raisins, sharp cheese and walnuts and I love pears in a lettuce salad with goat cheese and walnuts.  But, my new favorite is this recipe I found in a magazine last year.  It is quite easy but takes a bit of slicing time.

Green Apple Slaw

2 T. cider vinegar                                  
1 T. olive oil
1 ½ tsp. sugar                                       
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. pepper                                       
1 large thinly sliced fennel, parsnip or rutabaga
¼ c. fresh chopped parsley                   
¼ c. slivered sweet onion
2 c. thinly sliced Granny Smith or other tart apple (like Gala or Sweet 16)

Combine vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper and stir until sugar dissolves.  Add fennel, apple, parsley and onion.  Toss to coat.

Once I’ve exhausted salads, it’s time to start canning.  With the pears, we made jam and aigre-doux.  We made the apples into sauce.  We simply used the pear jam recipe that comes with the Ball pectin.  Following the advice of the orchard staff, we made two batches of the regular jam and two of the low sugar and mixed them together.  The only complaint is that it made a pint less than they said on the packet.  The first double batch I made by chopping the pears into very small cubes.  The second batch I decided to grate the pears which I think did a better job of distributing the pears since they weren’t too ripe.  See the jar in the middle.

Then, we got fancy and made Pear Vanilla Aigre-Doux.  If nothing else, this sweet sour fruit is stunning in the jars.  The recipe comes from the best canning book I’ve ever seen, A Preservation Kitchen.  If you are at all interested in preserving foods, run, don’t walk to get this book.

Pear Vanilla Aigre-Doux

1 ¾ c. white wine
1 ¾ c. champagne vinegar
¾ c. + 1 T. honey
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 vanilla beans, split with the seeds scraped out
5-7 pears, peeled, cored and cut in pieces
2 tsp. peppercorns

Boil wine, vinegar, honey, salt and vanilla beans with seeds.  Then keep at a simmer.  Prep jars.  Add ½ tsp. peppercorns each to four pint jars.  Pack each with pears.  Add a vanilla bean pod to each jar.  Pour liquid over leaving ½ inch head room.  Screw on lids and process in boiling water for 15 minutes.

For the applesauce, we made four batches of this easy recipe:


8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
½ c. sugar or honey (I used Splenda brown sugar)
1 cinnamon stick

Cook all over medium-low heat in heavy pan about 45 minutes.  Remove cinnamon stick.  Chill and serve or seal in jars and cover in boiling water for 10 minutes to seal.

Believe it or not, we gave away fruit and still had more than we knew what to do with, so I decided to freeze the last in plastic bags in order to make pies in the Fall and Winter.

Freezing Apples and Pears

Apples or pears, peeled, cored and sliced

Blanch apple slices in boiling water for about 3 minutes.  Remove from hot water and measure into plastic bags in amounts for your favorite recipes.  Freeze.

With pears, it is a little more complicated.  Blanch the pears in sugar water that is 2 parts sugar for 3 parts water, then follow as above, freezing the pears in a little of the sugar water.

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