Stirring Loves Company
I’m a bit quirky. And evidently so are a few of my friends. For fun this past Saturday, I had Taylor and Christine over for a “party” with the sole entertainment being the making of pear butter. The idea of standing over a stove for an hour, stirring pear pulp into buttery submission, seemed like a good group activity…otherwise I’d just be talking to the cat and she’d likely walk out on me after the first five minutes, leaving me with just the wall and the occasional fruit fly that had gathered in anticipation of honing in on my pears. Really, I needed better company than that.
I also kind of anticipated it being a lot more work than it was, which it might have been had I been making a massive batch. But the process proved to be ridiculously easy, even if the cooking part was a tad time consuming. No matter – we did what girls do best, sitting around and chatting about boys, life and recipe ideas. Time with my ladies is always therapeutic, and I gotta say I’m lucky I’ve got such a great gaggle of them in my life.
Christine and Taylor were both great sports for the photographs accompanying this post. What lovely hands they both have! And Taylor’s surely got a second career brewing as a food stylist if the outstanding finished product shots are any indication. I should exploit my friend more often.
Seriously though, making the pear butter together was the perfect demonstration of my shifting priorities in the kitchen since getting more “involved” with my food via this blog and the farm. It’s been said many times before by folks much more eloquent than myself, but food is really meant to be a social affair, not merely a utilitarian task. As humans, we bond over the preparation and sharing of meals. In doing such, we share traditions, ideas, stories, laughter, and occasionally sorrow.
I was talking with Marisa the other day about the culture of potlucks, and she told me about Indian culture not having potlucks so much as “cook-ins” where people come over to your house to help cook for an event instead of bringing their own prepared dish. I love this idea of gathering to cook together – to share both the labors and the rewards while nourishing the body and soul. Eating local allows for greater opportunities to connect with the growers. But I want to take it one step further and connect with my community - be it friends, family, neighbors, bloggers, or total strangers - over these locally grown products as they pass from kitchen to table.
Of course, cooking in such a collective manner usually requires more time and more coordination. But why not have friends over for a dinner of locally grown food just one night this week? Or maybe next week instead (heck, it is Wednesday already)? Or why not invite some of the gang over to make pear butter yourselves? If you adore North Star Orchard or another local orchard’s Asian pears the way I do, you’ll be glad you did later this winter when you’re still savoring their sweet flavor. And, no, for all my preaching about sharing your food, I’m not giving you any of mine!!
Honeyed Asian Pear Butter
Compiled from several online sources
6 lb. of ripe Asian pears
3/4 c. mild honey (clover works well)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
Wash pears before coring and quartering them. Place in a large pot with enough water to just cover the bottom – about 1/3 of a cup. Cook over medium heat, being sure to check occasionally to see that they aren’t scorching, until pears of soft – about 30 minutes. Place cooked pears in a food mill and extract as much puree as possible.
Measure out two quarts of puree and place in a heavy saucepan. Stir in honey, nutmeg and lemon zest and juice. Cook over medium to low heat until thickened and greatly reduced. This process can take up to an hour or more and requires frequent stirring so be prepared to be tending the stove for a bit. You can also cook it in a crock-pot if desired.
Pear butter is ready when a spoonful is placed on a plate and no liquid oozes out. Once ready, remove pear butter from heat and place in sterialized jars for canning. Leave about 1/8 inch of headspace between pear butter and the jar rims. Wipe rims clean and cover with canning flats/lids that have just been removed from boiling water. Screw on rings to hold lids in place and then submerge jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let stand to cool. Check lids to makes sure they have sealed and store any that haven’t in the refrigerator. Click here for more canning 101.
(makes 4+ cups)