Did you know you can make jam from pears and apples? It’s not a scientifically-based belief, but up until recently I thought that you could only make jam out of berries or fruits that were at a minimum, berry-colored (you know, like my beloved Italian prune plum jam). I have enough canning books that I soon learned otherwise, but even if I knew you could, I didn’t know why you’d want to. The idea of it still seemed well, weird.
But the power of suggestion is strong, and when there’s not much other fruit to pick from, and one has enough fruit butters to see one through even a New England winter, things like pear jam start sounding a little more appealing. Or at a minimum, interesting.
I picked up D’Anjou pears from one of favorite vendors at the very last farmer’s market of the season, Lanni Orchards (yes, those friends who provided me with my Italian prune plums for jams and tarts). I’ve already made pear butter with some Bartletts I got from them, but I’ve since come to the conclusion that Bartletts are better for baking than for making fruit spreads–their firm flesh that resists breaking down is wonderful in a pear tart but not so desirable a quality in a butter.
The D’Anjous, on the other hand, were perfectly suited to their calling. I managed to wait out the perfect degree of ripeness, when the neck yielded to gentle pressure. I selected a recipe from Linda Ziedrich’s Joy of Jams and Jellies yet again as a starting point, but then ended up using the proportions from Marisa’s Red Pear Jam recipe as I didn’t have enough pears or sugar (and liked the idea of adding extra lemon juice) . In short, I followed Linda’s technique (simmer the fruit until soft, puree as if to make a butter, then boil hard for 15 minutes until the jam firms up) and Marisa’s measurements.
By the way, it would seem buying 5lbs of pears won’t necessarily guarantee enough to yield 3lbs once you’ve peeled, cored, and chopped them all (oh and the peeling–I am tempted to buy one of those purpose-built gadgets, even more so if they work for pears). This inexplicable shrinkage is not so inexplicable however, when some are nibbled at in the days between purchase and preserving.
Even though I know pears can turn a russety-reddish brown (like quince) under heat, I was still amazed to see that my pear jam looked not all that different from the peach butter I made earlier this summer. And the taste–let’s just say I’m a convert!
You may be suspicious of jams made from things like pears and apples too. But hopefully I’ve convinced you to give it a shot. And if you’ve been bitten by the canning bug, there’s little choice this time of year (which is what finally swayed me). These fruits will be loyal friends to helpfully see you through, at least until citrus fruits flood in, bearing their soaked-in sunshine north.
Note: I also ran out of sugar while preparing this recipe, and freaked out a bit, terrified as I am of ever varying from a preserving recipe. However, my fears were assuaged as the National Center for Home Food Preservation even said that sugar could be altered in a jam recipe without compromising safety. The amount of sugar listed in the recipe is the amount I actually used, and in fact in the future I hope to use even less as a general matter.
Meanwhile…I think I should read this FAQ — if your jams are a bit too stiff as well, then click on over. And if you’re curious about other pear jams, then besides Marisa’s various takes on it, check out Robin’s version here.
- 2½ lbs pears (weighed after being peeled and cored), chopped. (I probably used about 4½lbs whole pears to get to this amount).
- ½c lemon juice
- 4c sugar
- Simmer the fruit and lemon juice gently for about twenty minutes, or until soft.
- Pass through the medium blade of a food mill (I imagine you could use a food processor or immersion blender here as well).
- Add the sugar all at once, and stir over low heat until thoroughly dissolved.
- Raise the heat and boil for about 15 minutes, or until the jam mounds on a spoon.
- Fill prepared pint jars, leaving ¼” headspace, and process for ten minutes in a boiling water canner.