Sunday, November 21, 2010

Canned Pears

I love canning. I don't know why, really, but there is something so satisfying about seeing all the jars lined up on my counter. I am pretty sure it is genetic in nature. As kids, we spent a lot of time with my grandma. When she needed it, she had an enormous garden filled with anything and everything she would need for her and her family for the entire winter. She had an entire room in her basement filled with jar upon jar of preserved fruits and vegetables.

When The Girl went to my mother-in-law's and came back with a huge bucket of pears, I really, really didn't want the to go to waste. So I pulled out my Ball canning book. If you want to get started in canning, this is the book you need. Turns out, canning pears is a pretty simple task.

Get everything ready. This is important. Everything. Line it up on your counter. You might have to spread out onto the table, too. Notice I have a blue pot filled with water. Start this boiling now. I also have my syrup beginning to boil in the silver pot. I prefer a light syrup, so I used a mixture of 2 cups of sugar for every 6 cups of water. If you prefer, you can add more sugar. A medium syrup will take 3 cups of sugar for every 6 cups of water and a heavy syrup will need 4 cups of sugar for every 6 cups of water.
Pears are like apples in that they start to immediately turn brown when you peel them. While this doesn't affect taste in any way, it makes a pretty big difference appearance-wise. To prevent browning from occurring, add a couple tablespoons of Fruit Fresh to a large bowl of water. Again, do this before you start.
Cut the pears in half and take out the core. They make corers, but I just used my melon baller and it worked beautifully.
Use a paring knife to cut out the bottom and top stems.
Then peel the skin off. Check carefully for any imperfections in your fruit. When eating fresh, it's not such a big deal, but when you are preserving, it is very important that you use fruit that is not damaged in any way. See that brown spot on the left? Cut it out.
Drop your pear halves into the Fruit Fresh mixture.
Once your syrup solution is boiling, add in enough pear halves to form a single layer. Boil this for about 5 minutes. This is called a hot pack and is the USDA recommended method for canning pears and most other fruits. I looked around and didn't find anyone who recommended using a raw pack (non-cooked) method. Not only is the quality so much better with a hot pack, but the chances of ending up with some type of food-born illness dramatically increases.
After five minutes, add the pear halves to the (very) clean canning jars. Pear halves are a little tricky to fit in, so squish them a little bit if you need to. Then fill in with some of your boiling syrup.
Run a rubber spatula or table knife around the edges of the pears to get all the air bubbles out. You want them all out. So squeeze your pears a little bit to make sure it all escapes. Air is extremely bad for anything you want to preserve.
Fill the jars up with syrup until you have about 1/2 an inch of space at the top of the jar.
All these handy little blue tools came in a box that I highly recommend. This one is marked off in quarter inch increments to help you figure out where 1/2 inch is in your jar.
Tighten the lids onto the jars.
Place each jar into the boiling water bath.
Process these jars in a water bath. If you will notice, I do not have a proper canning pot. Mine burned up with my house and I could have sworn I replaced it, but for the life of me, I couldn't find it. You need at least an inch of water above the lids and the water needs to be boiling. I processed in boiling water for 30 minutes. If you live at a higher altitude, you will need to go five or ten minutes longer.

That's it. The process is really not difficult, even if it is fairly time consuming. I ended up with 12 quarts and it took me a couple hours. Of course, The Kids wanted to try them right away. Then The Girl piped in and said we should wait until tomorrow. With any luck, we will get to have pears sometime this winter.

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