The other day, I invited myself over to the friend of a friend of a friend’s house (actually the son of our neighbor) to pick pears off their tree. They were happy to have us use the fruit. The tree was nothing short of majestic. It was heavily loaded with green and golden D’Anjou pears and it was gigantic, as a result of the rich compost pile at its base. This bumpy compost pile, however, made stabilizing a ladder very tricky. Still, the girls had fun climbing up and down the ladder and plucking pears off the tree.
In the end, we had about 3 bushels! How glorious to be able to have copious amounts of pears to cook and eat. On my list of To-Make Recipes: Pear Cake, Pear Slump, Pear Chutney. And we’ve just finished canning Ginger Pear Preserves.
My 2 ½ year old daughter was most interested in helping with this preserving project. I didn’t plan to peel the pears – only core them – but my little girl was eager to help, so I handed her a fairly blunt peeler. I figured she couldn’t hurt herself too much; no more than riding her sister’s Razor scooter in bare feet, which she also insists on doing daily. Sometimes there are tears, but they never last. She’s tough. Case-in-point: The good amount of blood she drew from her finger after handling the peeler and a pear for about five minutes. She was fine after kisses and a Hello Kitty band-aid.
Eventually…the Ginger Pear Preserves turned out perfect; thick and rich, caramely and gingery – but not overpowering with sweet limey ginger. Disappointingly, the recipe made only about 3 cups, instead of the specified 7! I even padded the amount of pears and started with about 6 1/2 cups. (I may have boiled/reduced it too long - yet I turned the heat off when it reached the specified gel stage.) Since I didn’t peel the pears, I used the immersion blender just a little at the end of cooking to avoid big chunks of skin. The result was just right: Smooth with just a few chunks of fruit for texture. MMmmm, can’t wait to slather the preserves on my toast this winter! By then, my two-year old will be three and probably past her sweet klutzy stage. Sigh.
While growing up on a ranch in Montana, I learned to appreciate food by watching my parents take it from the field to the plate. I helped my mother garden, preserve vegetables and milk the cow. Loving food led me to a career as a registered dietitian. And now as a mom, I enjoy teaching my children to cook and appreciate how food gets to their plate – here in a Chicago suburb. At the end of the day, it sometimes seems that all I've accomplished is to get dinner on the table. But if my kids helped, a lesson was learned and we most certainly had fun.