Archive for November 1st, 2010

I have been thinking ahead to Christmas cooking as some of the recipes need to be made in advance to allow the flavours to mature. I will make our Christmas cake, Christmas Pudding, Christmas Chutney and Mincemeat very soon but first here is the recipe for some delicious spiced pears.  These are good served with cold meats or cheese at a festive seasonal buffet.

The recipe comes from the Hairy Bikers BBC Christmas television series The Hairy Bikers Twelve Days of Christmas.  They credit Italian chef Antonio Carluccio as their inspiration.  I followed the original recipe for Pickled Pears almost exactly using 2lb jars (which had originally been full of Mincemeat).  Kilner type preserving jars would be ideal if available.  These pears should be eaten within two months and stored in the fridge once the jar is opened, so if you are unlikely to eat a large quantity in one go it could be a good idea to make smaller jars containing just one or two pears.  Juniper Berries are becoming easier to find, though still not widely available in the UK.  I have a small jar, bought from the herb and spice section of a French supermarket which is labelled Baies de Genièvre.  The original recipe did not specify the size of pear, but I chose small evenly sized ones, digging into the bottom and removing the end opposite to the stalk.  These are designed to be served whole on a buffet with slices cut from them by diners, but I wonder if  pear quarters might be a good alternative to whole pears.  I think too that peach or plum halves would be delicious prepared to the same recipe and even perhaps mixed in the same jar – something to try another year! 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Pickled Pears
(Makes 2 or 3 large jars)

1 litre/1¾ pints white wine vinegar
0.5 litres/17½fl oz water
500g/1lb 2oz caster sugar
3 small star anise
1 large cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (one for each jar)
1 tbsp allspice berries
1 lemon, zest peeled off in a large strip with a potato peeler
½ tsp cloves
2 tsp juniper berries
20 evenly sized small Conference pears, peeled with stalks intact
Small sprigs fresh rosemary (one for each jar)

1.  Place the water, vinegar, sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, lemon zest, cloves and juniper berries in a large, lidded, non-reactive pan and bring to the boil.

2.  Peel the pears carefully leaving the stalks intact.  I like to gently dig out the end opposite the stalk.  Add the pears to the saucepan and cover the pan with a lid.  Reduce the heat and let the pears simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, or until they are tender.

3.  Carefully remove the pears from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4.  Bring the liquid back to the boil for 4-5 minutes so it is slightly reduced and thickened.  (In practice I found it best not to overdo this step as it is important to have enough liquid to top up the jars after they have been filled with pears.)

5.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.  Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10 minutes.  Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack.  Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water.  Shake as much water from the lids as possible before filling.

6.  Remove the spices from the liquid and return it to the pan on a low simmer to keep it hot.  Divide the pears between the sterilised jars, handling them gently as they will be soft but packing them in as tightly as possible. As you fill the jars equally distribute the spices and lemon rind between them, at the same time adding one small sprig of rosemary to each jar.  Finally divide the reduced cooking liquid equally between the jars.   (I found that the jars were not filled right to the top so I topped them up with some freshly boiled water from the kettle, hence my comment above about not boiling the mixture away too much.) 

7.  Seal the jars tightly.  I find that inverting the hot jars, until they are cool, helps with the seal.

8.  These pickled pears can be stored for up two months.  They can be eaten after one week but once the jar is opened it should be stored in the fridge and eaten within two weeks.

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