We had an afternoon and one day off for fall break. It was odd to realize that what I most wanted to do with that extra free time was to peel, chop, cook and can pears. A friend offered an abundance, and when someone offers free produce, I always accept it. Pears can sit around for a while without going bad, so I was able to leave them until I had time to work with them. I peeled hard little pears until my hands cramped.
Pears seem to be nostalgic for many people over the age of about 60. I say this because I don't know anyone younger who really likes pears. However, I know at least 5 older people who LOVE pears. I am personally working to change this and am proud to report that my eight year old son didn't just like these pears, he LOVED them!
The pear tree is easy to grow, requiring little to no maintenance, and no spraying. These trees grow tall and last for generations. They fruit prolifically. They are versatile and preserve really well. Even after they are cooked and canned, they have a wonderful succulent texture. Pears taste great with all kinds of seasonings from vanilla to cinnamon, ginger and cloves. No wonder our grandparents ate them a lot and remember them fondly. These were cooked in a light syrup with a whole vanilla bean and then canned to give away at Christmas.
Vanilla Pears in Light Syrup
Peel and chop as many pears as you can.
Make a light syrup in a large heavy pan with 2 1/4 cups sugar and 5 1/2 cups water. Bring to low boil, add one whole vanilla bean and all the pears you can fit. Put the lid on and let them cook while you prepare the water bath and jars for canning.
Sterilize the jars in boiling water. Using a funnel, fill each jar with pears. Press them down and remove air bubbles with a spoon and add more if they will fit. Ladle the hot syrup over the pears to cover them, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a hot cloth to remove any spilled syrup and fit with fresh lids and rings. Process in boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove jars to cool. After 24 hours, remove the rings, label and date. If any jars did not seal, store in the refrigerator.
Any pears that are left over after you've filled your jars are to be enjoyed right away with your family or kept in the fridge for tomorrow. They make a light and yummy dessert.