Please read my page on preserving before you attempt this recipe
I love pears but they are very low in pectin and thus problematic to use in preserves. There are a few solutions for this issue.
You can purée one third to one half the pears and keep the other half in large chunks. The purée thickens the preserves base which compensates for the looser gel. You can add a high pectin fruit to the pears. Nice pairings are, white or red currants, green apples, lemons or cranberries or pineapple quince. What’s important to respect is the delicate flavors of pears so when I mix in other fruits I use a ratio of 2:1: two parts pear to one part partner fruit. You can also use about two teaspoons of Ball pectin (not the low sugar pectin). I make sure you mix it with a few tablespoons of your sugar so it doesn’t clump. As an extra anti clumping step, I dissolve the pectin/sugar mixture in a small bowl with some of the hot liquid from the preserves. When I’m certain it’s dissolved, I throw it into the pot while stirring. The pectin will help the pears gel as long as you also use a pectin bag with the shells and seeds of the lemons you juiced for the preserves. I also save all my lemon seeds in the freezer and you can add whatever you have. Throughout the year, as I juice lemons for other preparations, I put the seeds in a zip lock bag and throw them in the freezer.
With this preserve preparation, I will be getting the pectin I need from the the juiced lemon shells and The body I need by puréeing half the pears.
- 1.2 kg (2 3/4 lb) ripe but firm Fetel or Bartlett pears or 1kg net
- 750 g (3 3/4 cups) grams superfine sugar
- 60 grams (1/4 cup lemon juice from tart lemons (about two Eureka lemons)
- 4 star anise
- 1 vanilla bean
- Pinch of salt
MISE EN PLACE
- Squeeze lemons, strain and put the seeds in your pectin bag. Roughly chop the peel and pith and place those in your pectin bag
- Puree 1/3 of the pears in a food mill and cut the other half into into 1″ chunks. I like to use a device called an Alligator. You can see it in the pictures below. I also use a small cookie cutter or a large piping tip to cut out the core.
- Toss pears in a solution of 2 tablespoons of honey dissolved in 1cup of cold water. This helps to prevent browning. You’d think that the lemon juice would keep the pears from browning but I’ve still had pieces turn brown on me. Dipping them in the honey/water solution is extra insurance.
- Drain pears and weigh. If you have 1000 grams you don’t need to adjust anything. If you have less than 1000g you can either add more pears or lower the amount of sugar and lemon juice. Multiply the weight of the pears by .75. That number represents the amount of sugar you need to use. Take that same pear weight and multiply by .06 and that will give you the amount of lemon juice you will need. In this instance, The net weight of my pears was 870 grams so I reduced the lemon juice and sugar. It’s the risk you run when your preserving fruit in a house with kids. Somehow, pieces are always going missing. .
- Mix lemon juice into the pears and pour the sugar on top. Set aside until sugar starts to dissolve.
- Add pectin bag, star anise and vanilla to pears. Put the mixture in your clean preserving pan. and put the pan over a low flame and stirring occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, put the flame on high and bring to a simmer.
- Immediately pour the mixture into a glass or ceramic bowl or Tupperware container. After 20 minutes remove the star anise and scrape out the vanilla bean into the mixture, removing the pod. After 20 minutes the Star anise might make the mixture taste woody. If the star anise flavor isn’t strong enough, you can always add more before the final boil.
- Cover the preserves with parchment paper, making sure it touches the surface of the contents. Leave in the refrigerator overnight with the pectin bag submerged in the mixture.
- The next day, clean your preserving pan with kosher salt, white vinegar and enough flour to make a paste. Clean your pan and rinse it.
- Place a cookie sheet in the freezer to test your gel.
- Pour the preserves into the preserving pan with the pectin bag. Fish out the chunks of pear with a slotted spoon and set aside in a small bowl. You will add them after the juice gels. This keeps the integrity of those chunks. I don’t do this with every fruit but pears are pretty delicate.
- Put the flame on high. Boil hard until the temperature reaches about 215 degrees. Take the mixture off the heat and set aside the pectin bag to cool. You’ll see that the preserves have darkened.
- Once the pectin bag is cool enough to handle, squeeze and twist it above the pot to get as much pectin out as possible. Add the pear cubes back in. Taste the mixture and add more lemon juice if it’s too sweet.
- Return the pan to the heat and boil to 215 Fahrenheit. Start testing the preserves. Make sure when you test it you move the pan off the heat.
- When the preserves have gelled enough for your taste, put them in the jars, tap out air bubbles with your wooden skewers, clean the rims, screw on the lids and leave them to cool.