Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pear Heaven

The concept of time intrigues me. So much of what we do is based on how much or how little time we perceive we have. In elementary school, I used to watch the second hand of the clock quiver as it ticked off each moment until the final bell to freedom rang. An invitation to a birthday party meant an entire week of watching seconds, minutes and hours drag by. And a year -- what child doesn't feel like a birthday or Christmas is a lifetime away and is never going to arrive?

Every year however, those moments have grown closer and closer together. At first, the change was imperceptible. Now time flies by so quickly that I catch myself missing hours and days and wondering what in the world I did with all that time.

Take this blog, for instance. I could have sworn I posted just a couple of weeks ago, well, a month ago anyway. But no...three months have come and gone. Obviously I survived the invasion of the apples, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and the birth of a new grandchild (# 16!). Last week Doug was laid off from his job and now new adventures lie ahead. Just like when I was a child, time slows down as I anticipate Doug hearing from potential employers. (Don't they know we are waiting?) On the other hand, time also seems to slip through my fingers as we struggle to find enough hours in the day to find other ways to meet our financial obligations.  I started thinking about eternity and wondering why, if in the next life I get to experience unlimited time, I feel so constrained by time in this one. (Does that make any sense at all?) I have more thoughts about that...but since you are probably already bored, I'll switch to what got me back on the blogging horse.


I know...weird. It's not pear season here. Obviously it is somewhere, because last Saturday I came home from running errands with Doug to discover that we had been gifted with an entire box of over ripe Bosc pears. They smelled heavenly. They were very ripe...too ripe to can, but I knew there had to be something I could do with them. I searched the internet for ideas and inventoried my pantry and food storage to see what I had on hand, since no job means no money to run out for extras! I found jars and new lids, sugar, cinnamon, half a box of oranges that needed attention, flour, eggs, oil...and a few other mainstays in the house. (Hooray for food storage and being prepared!) On the internet I found dozens of yummy ideas for pear upside-down cake, puddings, sauces, flan...all incredibly tempting. Two recipes stood out because 1) they were simple and 2) because I had everything on hand to make them! I mentioned them on Face Book and several people requested I here they are! I forgot to write down the sources...yikes!...but I also tweaked the recipes to fit my family's tastes. Here are my versions of:

Pear Butter

2 quarts pear pulp (20 - 25 pears)
4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Quarter and core about 20 - 25 pears. Place them in a pot with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, place a lid on the pot and cook the pears until they are soft -- stirring every few minutes to prevent scorching. When the pears are soft, let cool for a little bit, then press through a food mill or sieve. Measure the pulp into a large pot and add the remaining ingredients. Cook this mixture, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until it thickens. Pour into hot, sterilized jars, place lids and rings, and process in a hot water bath. (about 10 minutes/pint or 1/2 pint.) Super yummy on toast, waffles, crepes, oatmeal, pork chops....MMMMMM!

Pear Bread - okay...I have to admit I was a little skeptical about this one. But my bathroom scale will tell you just how much I can't resist nibbling (okay...snarfing) this bread!

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup pear sauce (just peel, core and "blenderize" a couple of pears)
3 eggs
2 cups of sugar (yeah, if you are diabetic, I would stay far away from this recipe!)
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
zest of one lemon (actually, I forgot to put this in..and never noticed)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups finely chopped up pears.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare 2 loaf pans. In a large bowl, beat your wet ingredients together. In a medium bowl sift the flour with the other dry ingredients and  mix with a wire whisk. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and gently fold together. Add the chopped pears and and gently fold those in. (oh..and you can add a cup of chopped nuts if you like.)
Divide the batter between the two loaf pans. You can sprinkle the top of the batter with cinnamon and sugar if you like, but it is already super sweet. Either will be great!
Bake for 60 - 70 minutes. Test at the 60 minute mark. Touch the top of the loaf. If it is firm and springs back a little, it is done. You don't want it too dry, but you don't want to under bake it either. You can also do the tooth pick trick. If the toothpick comes out clean after inserting into the middle of the bread, the bread is done. (I find this sometimes results in over cooking as the bread is quite moist.) Remove from pans and let cool. you know why Bosc pears are wrapped in paper? I had no idea! The skin of the Bosc pear is very sensitive to skin oils and bruises easily. Keep them wrapped in the paper and they last longer! 

Just in case you are so enchanted by my writing that you can't stand the thought of leaving, I have another story about "time."
My friend and mentor Stephanie Fleming expressed her frustrations the other day about balancing career and family and asked me how I dealt with it when my children were little. I shared my experience and pointed out that I was very young and had several children in quick succession, so I didn't have time to focus on my "career." That night, when I told my husband about our discussion, he asked - too sincerely--
"Well, did you tell her we didn't have computers back then?" 
I almost choked.
I feel so old now.
 Enjoy your pears!!!