What to do with windfall pears?

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)
• lemons

• 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.



Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things

34 responses to “What to do with windfall pears?

  1. Amazing, I love pears and never thought of doing this. Every autumn we make quince jelly (or “cheese”) as we have loads of them round where we live. Will have to give this a go…it looks stunning too!

    • Thanks – I have to admit, I am very happy with the colour. I’ve also seen something called “perada”, which seems to be like membrillo but made from pear. So if I get a few more pears…might give that one a bash. Good luck if you make this – you might want to add more pectin or lemon if you want a firmer jelly. Let me know how it turns out.

  2. It’s gorgeous! What a great idea for rock-hard, on-sale pears, too, although I’d rather have pears from my own yard! On a walk in my neighborhood this week, I saw a house with three pear trees out front, all brimming with fruit. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone outside or I would have asked for some pears!

  3. How original! And a lovely vibrant colour. I like the idea of having it with hot crumpets! You are blessed to have such a nice neighbour 😉

  4. I made this! I used some hard conference pears and some riper William pears. I added a couple of cooking apples for pectin and tartness. I will blog it soon I think, if I get around to taking a decent photo, and reference your recipe. Mine is not such a pretty colour and I had to reduce it down for a good 40 minutes before it would get to jam temperature as it was so juicy! It tastes lovely though and a great use for windfall pears.
    Thanks for the recipe

    • Hi Claire – thanks for stopping by and for trying this recipe. It sounds like you had similar issues to me, as I had to boil mine for quite a long time too. I was completely surprised by the colour – I expected a light golden shade, not the deep amber hue. I have no idea what sort of pears I used though – my neighbour has a pear tree which is apparently from the old orchard that used to belong to the manor house in the area back in the late 1800s (!), so at least there is some history in those jars. I’ll keep an eye out on your blog for the post – I am curious to see how it turned out!

      (PS – just saw you’ve been making damson jam – fantastic!)

  5. Pingback: Pretty Pear Jelly « Things we make

  6. Flapjack50

    Thank you for the recipe, just boiling my pear juice, it does look as if it might take a while before it sets. Smells very fruit.

  7. Lovely jam! The color is gorgeous. By the way (and you might already know this), if the pears are rock hard, just give ’em a few days — or a week — and they’ll soften up and be perfect. But probably, when you’re making jelly, it doesn’t matter. I had never thought to make jelly with pears, but I love the idea. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Hi Lynn – thanks so much for stopping by. Thanks for the tip to ripen pears (guess it works for apples too?) but sadly mine had a bit of a traumatic journey from tree to earth, so jelly it had to be. And given the colour, glad I did!

  8. Pingback: Perada | LondonEats

  9. Ooh, this looks interesting. My grandparents have a bunch of rock hard pears that we don’t know what to do with it, so we might try this. How many jars of the jelly did you get from the 2kg of fruit? (My grandpa says it might be too much work for a couple of small jars, but if I can get 4-5 jars, I might attempt it anyway.)

  10. deb

    This looks like a recipe, that passed away with my grandmother and have been searching for one like since. Can not wait to try it : )

  11. I have two Bartlett Pear trees in my yard, every year I make pear butter for Christmas presents, I decided not to just boil away the juice from the cut up pears this year and ended up with about 5 quarts of juice off of the pears. I have never made jelly before, the pears are very ripe and the juice from them is very sweet, but not real clear. Many recipes call for so much sugar, do I need to have so much sugar to make the syrup (am diabetic also)? Then I thought I would continue with the pectin and boiling in order to make the jelly/jam. At this time I am pear buttered out so I have about 10 lbs of cut up pears in the freezer, please let me know if that is how I should make jelly with the juice from the cooked pears, sure appreciate your website, have learned a lot!. Thanks

    • Hi Tami – first off, I just have to say you’re so lucky to have fruiting trees in the garden! I’ve just moved and have a fig tree, but English summers just don’t seem to be warm enough to benefit from them. Maybe one day…

      Anyway, making pear jelly – I think it should be possible to make jelly from the juice you have left over. Here are a few tips, so I hope they help:

      * usually with jelly, the juice does not start clear – but once you add the sugar and boil up the mixture, it changes to clear. If you want clear jelly, don’t squeeze the cooked fruit when extracting the juice. If you don’t mind cloudy jelly, then squeeze away (you’ll get more juice). In any event, you can expect the colour of the juice to change once you cook it. The jelly I made started with what looked like very pale yellow juice, and it ended up a rich orange-red colour.

      * Sugar – you’re right to think about how sweet it will be. Pears are not very rich in pectin, so you either have to boil, boil, boil until you get a set (and that means you’re concentrating the sugar and cooking the pear juice for longer), or make life easy and use pectin to the mixture (go with what your brand recommends). This will mean you get an easier and better set, and of course less cooking means you get more fresh pear flavour.

      * Other ideas – if you’re looking for something else to try with whole pears, there is also a pear paste for serving with cheese called “perada” – I made this and put it into lots of little jam jars. It keeps very well – even a year later, I have jars of the stuff that still taste great.

      Let me know how it works out!

  12. Linda

    I would love to try your recipe but I don’t know how to trade kg to quarts or what ever the trade would be. Any help would be great.
    Linda at meccookie@sbcglobal.net

  13. Lizzy

    You will have more juice and more flavor if you allow the pears to ripen. (Just on the off chance you didn’t know, pears do not ripen on the tree and need to be harvested when the first few start to fall off the tree; then if you store them in a cool place in a closed box, they will ripen nicely. We have had pear trees for many years and have made about everything possible out of them!

    • Hi Lizzy – a good tip! Normally I try to let fruit ripen as you suggest, but the pears off that tree were pretty subborn. I think it was from a very old orchard, and was possibly approaching the end of its fruiting life – we’d tried that the year before, and even as “ripe” pears they were not amazing. But as jelly – they were great!

  14. Katie Bourn

    Hello – I’ve stumbled across this page after making some pear jelly and not being wholly satisfied with it! I’m not sure of the variety of pear I used but they were certainly very ripe, quite soft and needed using. I made jelly in the normal way (as per your recipe) and it has produced a pale yellow jelly, which in itself looks lovely and quite unusual but it tastes of… not a lot. It’s mostly just sweet, because of the huge amount of sugar, and the very delicate taste can be best likened to popcorn. It’s not that great to be honest, really sickly. I thought maybe that pears just weren’t good for making jelly but your page proves otherwise! Don’t know what happened to mine 😦

    • Hi Katie – so sorry to hear that! So annoying when jam or jelly doesn’t have much flavour.

      I think you’ve got two options: if the pears are very ripe, you want a recipe that uses quite a bit of pectin, so that you’re not cooking for very long and you get the pear favour. I’d really go for something like jam, simply because there is less cooking than jelly, which preserves the ripe pear flavour. The second option is best with really quite unripe pears (still hard) and cook the mixture down so that you concentrate the flavour (and the colour).

      However, there is a third option – I made something like quince membrillo with pear paste, called peraded. It’s delicious with cheese, or chopped in cakes, and had a golden-orange colour. The recipe is here.

      • Katie

        Thanks for the ideas, they’re great. Sadly I’m out of pears now but will try them if I lay hands on any more! I’m left wondering what to do with my ‘hint of pear sugar syrup’ lol!

        • Hmmm…maybe it will find its use in cocktails? Perhaps add a spoon or two to prosecco…it there is a pear aroma in there, that should release it! Otherwise it could be used to brush onto sponges in places of plain sugar syrup? Don’t throw it out – I’m sure you’ll be able to find a use.

  15. Vera

    Really like the idea of using all parts of the pears
    I only have one problem, my better half is diabetic
    Can the sugar be replaced with a sugar substitute ???

    • Hi Vera – I’m afraid that I really don’t know anything about sugar-free jam making! I *think* you can get no-sugar pectin, and then sweeten with whatever you are able to use (e.g. stevia, but things like xylitol might work). But all I can really suggest is to look on Google!

      Once easier idea might be to make a pear paste called “perada” – just add some liquid pectin, and then add sweetener, but the good thing is that you just cook it until it is a thick paste. It is delicious on strong cheddar!

  16. Donna

    Does this recipe work for apple jelly too, it’s my first time making jelly and my pears and apples are dropping off my trees now and I don’t want them to go to waste

    • Hi Donna – yes, apple jelly does work! They also have more natural pectin, so will help with getting a good set. One tip if you find the flavour is not quite there – add some whole spices when making the jelly – pear and star anise or cinnamon makes a lovely wintery jelly.

  17. Shazzy53

    I did this, added a couple of star anise and added a little bit extra lemon juice. Delicious.

  18. Shazzy53

    I did this, added a couple of star anise and added a little bit extra lemon juice. Delicious.
    Used soft conference pears.

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