Monday, September 14, 2009

Pears, pears and more pears...

Oh, how I love Saturday mornings at the Farmer's Market! It has become a ritual best enjoyed alone. I say this not because I don't enjoy the company of others, but because I like to take my time. I like to take in the sounds and the smells without distraction, allowing them to inspire creation. I like to get there early. Every Saturday, I walk the entirety of the market, outside and in, before making a single purchase. I don't want to miss a thing. Who's got the best deals this week? Who has the nicest looking produce? Who has something new that I haven't tried before? All of these details are important. Since I decided to preserve as much as possible this year, it is very important not to over or under purchase produce. It is also very important to pay attention to what's in season and what might not be there next week. This is the first time I have done this and I missed certain seasons out of pure ignorance, simply because there are no seasons at the grocery store. I have learned to pay attention to the finer details. The first peaches to appear at the market were like large rocks in a basket. I waited. Same thing for the apples and corn. Strawberry season has long since passed, yet there are still strawberries for sale. I avoid these. During the few weeks that blueberries were in season, I purchased a few 6L baskets and spent a day washing and freezing them. Once you learn to shop in season, food actually gets cheaper. This Saturday was no different than any other. I purchased large quantities of apples, corn, tomatoes and peaches. Luckily, I had my boyfriend there for the first trip. We got the heavy stuff out of the way and then I returned, empty-handed and ready for my ritual.
On the first time round I passed an older gentleman who, in a thick German accent, asked me if I wanted to buy some of his pears. He looked at me so kindly and asked me so sincerely that it was hard to refuse. I asked him about his pears. They were both local and organic and, most surprisingly, dirt cheap. He was selling a giant box of pears for the low low price of $10!!! Since I had already been home with the larger produce and had just returned for the small stuff, I told him that I would have to get him next week. But Helge was only here this week as the pears were in season now. I'm a country livin' bus kid and my house is a good 25 minute walk from the closest bus stop. There was no way I could carry these pears home. He smiled at me, understanding my dilemma. I said my goodbyes and continued with my morning, besides what was I going to do with a giant box of pears? I spent the next 20 minutes justifying the cost of a cab to myself.
I guess you already know what happened next... Of course, I bought the giant box of pears. He tossed in a 4L basket full of pears ready to eat straightaway. I was now in possession of more pears than I had eaten combined in the past 6 years! Oh my! What was I thinking?
Once home, I plunked the box on the floor and sat down to think. I'd can them... or as many of them as possible. Make a soup... freeze some. We'd have pears all winter.
Tip to future preservers: Don't purchase more than you are capable of doing alone!
I spent a good 8 hours preserving that Saturday. Between the apples that were made into apple sauce and peeled, cored, sliced, blanched and frozen, the corn that was shucked, and the tomatoes that were reduced to a thick and zesty sauce, I barely made a dent in the box of pears. By the end of the day, I had a mere 4 500 ml jars of preserved pears. Since then, some have been pawned off on neighbours, disguised as gifts. Some have been eaten in salads and as snacks. Some were made into a delicious soup. The rest are hidden in the pantry, out of sight but never out of mind. Anyone want some pears?
For anyone who is interested in getting their hands on their own $10 giant box of pears, please send me a message. I did get directions to Helge's farm, as well as his phone number.
Here are some of the things that you can do with pears:

For each 1 L jar, select 2 to 3 lb ripe, mature fruit. Harvest pears when full grown. Store in a cool place until ripe but not soft. Wash, peel, halve and core pears. Place in a colour protection solution. Pears may be packing in water, apple or white grape juice, very light or light syrup.
HOT PACK- Prepare syrup and bring to a boil in large stainless steel saucepan. Drain fruit and place one layer at a time in syrup; return to boil or until fruit is heated through. Pack hot fruit into jars and add hot syrup. Repeat for remaining fruit.
Heat process: 500 ml jars - 20 min.; 1 L jars - 25 mins.; 1.5 L jars - 35 mins.
(Taken from the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving)


Roast pear in 350 degree oven for 20 mins. Peel off skin, if desired. Slice.
Fill a salad bowl with mixed greens. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and crumbled blue cheese. Toss and place roasted pear on top. Drizzle with caramel dressing.


In small dish, mix caramel sauce, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and black pepper until it tastes sweet, but slightly tart. And, yes, there is a 100 mile recipe for caramel sauce. Here is the link for anyone who is interested:


2 tbsp canola oil
2 cups peeled parsnips, sliced
1 cup peeled carrots, sliced
1 lg. onion, diced and sauteed
4 1/2 cups water
2 pears, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Toss parsnips and carrots in oil and roast in 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until soft. Sautee onions. Add roasted veggies and pear. Add water and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Allow soup to boil continuously for quite some time. Take off heat and puree in batches in a blender. Return to pot and stir.
Serve with crumbled blue cheese on top.
(I added vanilla soy to mine to make it a bit creamier and it tasted wonderfully smooth and rich)


  1. Mel -- I know your pain with preserving when there are other things to do...unfortunately the fruit has a timetable of it's own that cannot (easily) be altered. I have a pile of pears sitting on a table at home waiting for me tonight. In deep winter I will be glad to have you put the effort in now - I love carrying a jar upstairs from the cold celler in mid winter -- and when opened it's like a breath of late summer in the room.

    So hbear down -- 'cause as old saying goes, "you reap what you sow".

    But I am really writing about your dismissino the strawberies. NO NEED TO. Most (if not all) the berries at the Guelph Market this time of year are from "day neutral" plants that produce fruit continuously until frost. So while June remains the season for "june bearers", we can now luxuriate in berries the rest of the summer also. Most if not all are well within your 100 mile radius -- just ask the farmers. But eat them while you can -- frosts are coming!

    Also, if you want a seasonal treat look for figs from the italian couple who sell veggies near the middle door at the back. A real taste of the tropics for the locavoir. issedfor sure.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment, Rob. I keep looking at those berries longingly and wondering and I probably should have asked. I've just had so much bad luck with berries this year that I sometimes just don't want to ask. I still haven't written the article on the sprays that they put on most berries... I've been refraining because it's negative and that's not what this blog was about.
    Thanks for educating me... yay! strawberries!

  3. Please advise what you find out about their pest control activities -- I am currious to know. Also, don't forget the figs! Happy eating.