Last Saturday, I peeked out the window, and the lady downstairs said I could have a bag of windfall pears – if I wanted them.
There were about five on the garden table, with an open offer to get as many off the tree as I wanted and could reach. A few minutes later, we’re up a ladder, whacking the fruit off the tree using a grass edger with great comedic effect, and I managed to walk away with two kilos of fruit.
So…I had a pile of pears, but it turned out they were…rock hard. Given these were windfalls, I wasn’t sure that these would be great in a pie or make great jam. Then it struck me – I would adapt my recipe for quince jelly but using these pears.
I shredded the lot and boiled them up with some water. The result was a pale green-yellow mush. Strained overnight, I ended up with a few litres of murky pear water. But then I boiled it up with sugar, and something strange happened. Like with the quince, the colour changed and became a deep amber colour. I have no idea where this colour came from, but it looks pretty. The picture was taken with the sun shining through the glass, and as you can see, the colour is pretty amazing.
All in all, I felt rather pleased with myself. It really does not get much more local than fruit from a tree outside your back window.
This is a jelly with quite a loose set, but it tastes lovely. There is a pear flavour (of course) and is quite aromatic, so perfect to have on toast, scones, crumpets, muffins or to glaze tarts. If you are after a firm jelly, just add some pectin when you add the sugar (follow instructions on the bottle/packet!).
To make pear jelly:
• hard pears (I used 2kg)
• water (I used 2 litres)
• granulated white sugar
Wash the pears. Remove the stalks but leave on the skin. Grate coarsely.
Put the pears into a large saucepan and add the water (1 litre for every kilo of fruit). Bring to the boil, and simmer for 50-60 minutes until the pears are tender. Mash the fruit to extract maximum flavour. If it seems a little too solid, add more water – we want the texture of soft applesauce.
Pour the mixture into a sterile tea towel or muslin cloth(*). Tie the edges together, and – being careful – use a string to attach the cloth to an upturned chair. Place a large bowl under the cloth, and leave overnight for the juice to drip through. Don’t squeeze the cloth, otherwise you end up with cloudy jelly (tastes the same, but looks less pretty), and in this recipe, you won’t be going short of juice.
Next day, measure the juice – for every 600ml of juice, add 500g of sugar, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Add everything to a large heavy-based pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat until the setting point(**) is reached.
Finally, pour the hot jelly into sterile jam jars(***), seal, label and hide it somewhere to enjoy later.
(*) To sterilse the cloth, put into a sieve, and pour over boiling water.
(**) To test for the setting point, put a spoonful of the mixture on a very cold saucer. Let it cool, then tilt the saucer – if the jelly wrinkles, the setting point has been reached.
(***) To sterilise jam jars: wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Place upside-down in a cold oven, and heat to 90°C for 15 minutes. Leave in the oven to cool down while you are making the jam . To sterilise the lids, wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well, place in a saucepan with boiling water for 5 minutes.
Worth making? I would not make this recipe with perfect ripe, juicy pears. But with windfalls…there is not a lot you can do, and this is a great option. OK, it happens over two days, but it actually needs very little attention and the results are worth it.