It always amazes Pam just how much fruit a gnarled old pear tree can bear in a good season. However, it's still a little tricky to catch pears at their point of perfect ripeness - somewhere between bullet hard and soft and woolly. Never mind, should you find yourself with a boxful of under-ripe specimens, this recipe turns them into a preserve pear excellence . These pears are particularly delicious served with thick vanilla custard, or used as a base for a winter fruit salad. Alternatively, try serving them with terrines and pâtés, or mix with chicory leaves drizzled with a honey mustard dressing and crumbly blue cheese.
Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2.
Start by making a cider syrup: mix the sugar with 500ml water in a pan and bring slowly to the boil to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, add the cider, cover and keep warm.
Peel the pears, keeping the stalks attached. As you do so, place them in a bowl of lightly salted water to stop them browning. When all the pears are peeled, cut them in half and stud each half with a clove or two. Pack them into warm, sterilised jars, adding a piece of cinnamon to each. Pears are very bottom-heavy of course, and I find the best way to pack them is head-to-toe.
Bring the cider syrup to the boil and pour over the pears. Cover the jars with lids, but do not fasten the clips or put on the screw-bands. Place the jars 5cm apart, in the oven, for 1 hour.
Remove the jars, seal with the screw-bands or clips immediately and place on a wooden surface, newspaper or folded cloth. Leave undisturbed until completely cool and check the seal the following day. Keep for up to 12 months.
Try replacing the cider with red wine and add a star anise to each jar if you like.
Makes 2 x 1 litre jars
- 125g granulated sugar
- 500ml cider (dry, medium or sweet)
- 1.5kg small pears
- Small handful of cloves
- 2 x 5cm pieces of cinnamon stick
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