Pear Preserves with Star Anise and Vanilla

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.

INGREDIENTS

  • 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
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Sorrento Lemon Marmalade Two Ways

Sorrento lemon marmalade

I’d like to share two easy ways to prepare lemon marmalade. Blanching or chopping peel by hand is not necessary.

I’ve used Sorrento lemons here but you might be able to use Meyer Lemons or Blood oranges. They key is to use citrus that doesn’t have bitter skin. With bitter skinned citrus you have to separate the peel from the fruit and blanch it anywhere from 5 times for oranges and lemons and 7 or 8 for grapefruit. It’s a tedious and time consuming task.

I discovered the joy of Sorrento lemons in Sicily. They are used in lemon salads, Marmalade and fish. They have beautiful perfumed skin and juice with almost no bitterness in the skins. The first time I tried them I was smitten. Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon Sorrento Lemons imported from Italy at Whole Foods at the beginning of the Covid-19 confinement in Illinois. It was the last trip I took to the grocery store and I bought about 8 pound of lemons figuring I wouldn’t be back anytime soon.

The two styles of whole fruit marmalade: Italian style English style. What is the difference? The Italian marmalade is more of a jam, thick and glossy but opaque. The English style has bits of peel suspended in a clear jelly. Keep in mind that for the most visually beautiful marmalade it is necessary to separate the peel from the rest of the lemon, supreme the segments and make a pectin bag with the seeds and membranes. It’s a lot more work.

The English style looks beautiful but I really prefer the Italian style. You need to cook it less because you chop the peel really fine and it thickens the mixture even before you boil it. The flavor is a bit cleaner and brighter. The English style is lovely but I do cook it a few more degrees to get a decent gel.

Make them both and decide which you prefer. You can also add flavors like lavender, ginger or elderberry or a low pectin fruit, like pears, for a little variety. In that event, I prepare the pears separately, up to the point of the last boil and using my standard ratios (look at my page on preserving). I prepare the lemons separately, up to the point of the last boil and combine them for the last boil. If you use elderberry syrup, I’d add it a few minutes before the marmalade gels.

So, I hope I inspire you to make some marmalade with these lovely Sorrento lemons. Just a bit of a warning, the classic ratio of fruit to sugar in marmalades is 1:2, one part fruit to two parts sugar, far more sugar than I would use for non citrus fruits. I have reduced the amount of sugar with the Sorrento lemons because they are not as bitter or tart as Seville oranges, grapefruit or standard lemons. My ratio is 1 part fruit to 1.5 parts sugar. I would advise against lowering the amount of sugar because it will take longer to gel and you’ll risk over cooking it and risk losing the fresh lemon flavor. If in the end it tastes too sweet you can always add a bit of citric acid or Eureka lemon juice.

Please read my page on preserving before you make this recipe. I go over cooking vessels, sterilizing jars, making a pectin bag and testing for gel.

INGREDIENTS FOR BOTH MARMALADES

  • 1000 grams (1kilo) Sorrento lemons (imported from Italy)
  • 1500 grams of sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 sterilized jars and lug lids lined with Plastisol (you’ll probably only use 3-4 but I like to have extras)
  • Clean, lint free cloth
  • Wooden skewer
  • Borosilicate beaker or metal ladle and funnel
  • Jelly roll pan and silpat

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Strawberry/Rhubarb Preserves

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Please read my page on Preserving Equipment and Technique before trying this recipe.

I love almost any kind of preserve but I rarely find a Strawberry Preserve that I like. They are almost always sickly sweet and/or overlooked and thus an ugly maroon color. However, there is nothing better on a scone slathered with Devonshire Cream and it is the favorite preserve of my oldest son After many kilos of strawberries I have one that I am proud to offer.

I prefer to use locally grown strawberries at the height of their season which is June in the Midwest. You can use strawberries from California and Florida but even they have a peak season so be sure to taste them. The strawberries should have red shoulders and should taste good eaten out of hand.

Julie Read More

Fig/Earl Grey Preserves

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Please read my page on preserving before attempting this recipe.

I used to limit my choice of fresh figs to the ones my Uncle grows in his back yard or those from a farmer who brings his locally grown figs, called “Chicago Hearty” to market in early September. My Uncle has several fig trees, all children of the fig tree that my Great Grandfather Ben Sala grew in his back yard in Chicago. Great Grandpa Ben grew his fig tree from a cutting he brought with him from Sicily when he immigrated to Chicago, Illinois in 1920. Lately, I’ve been able to find very nice Black Mission figs from California at our local whole foods and they are making very good preserves. Make sure you taste one before you invest in making preserves. They should have some flavor although the flavor will intensify with cooking.

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My family has a long standing love affair with Earl Grey tea. It’s one of my favorite teas to drink. My husbands favorite cake from his childhood was an Earl Grey pound cake from Dalloyau Patisserie in Paris. While they don’t make that pound cake anymore they do make an Earl Grey macaroon which my son loves. I created this preserve for the men in my life.

Julie

FIG/ EARL GREY PRESERVES

  • 1000 grams fresh local figs
  • 800 grams superfine sugar ( Depending on the sweetness of the figs you can reduce to 750 grams but don’t go below that or you’ll risk the integrity of the color and texture).
  • pinch of salt
  • 60 grams fresh lemon juice ( save the rinds, seeds and membranes from the lemons for your pectin bag)
  • 1 Tablespoon of premium Earl Grey tea. I use Earl Grey Royale from The Tea House that has real pieces of bergamot in the tea and not just oil.
    You will also need:
  • A preserving pan
  • An unbleached, food grade muslin bag about 5″x7″.
  • six 6 oz glass jars with lug tops lined with Plastisol ( you will probably only get 5 but I always sterilize an extra one)
  • a 3 quart heat proof container
  • a piece of parchment paper cut to the size of the top of the 3 quart container
  • A heat proof measuring cup
  • a wood skewer
  • a lint free kitchen towel

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