A couple of weeks ago I found out had won a $100 prize in a drawing that Snikiddy Snacks had hosted, for those filling out a survey they sent in an email. Yeah, those “Take Our Survey!!!!” sometimes do pay off. It came in the form of a pre-paid American Express card delivered by FedEx. After yukking it up about being a Hundredaire, I was stumped with what to do with it. Finally a light clicked on and I spent most of it on canning jars. So unsexy I know. Normal people would go buy shoes. Or go out to eat. I buy canning lids. And jars. Although I went all crazy and got the “fancy” ones from the Elite Ball Collection. Which I found don’t fit in my canning rack. Snort. I improvised by putting a kitchen towel in the canning pot, over the rack.
On Sunday I had found a box of last-of-the-season pears from Washington that smelled fantastic and were about $1 a pound. They all were ripe this morning so I decided to have fun and try something I hadn’t done before, to can pears. When I was young and my Mom canned, I didn’t get why she did it. After all, one could easily go to the store and buy cans of them, no? The point that they were fresh and customizable went over me. At $6 for the pears + the other ingredients, I am not exactly making them cheaper than commercially canned ones – for me it is about what goes into them and creating artisanal fruits! But then, when did canned pears out of a metal can ever taste good, even if you can buy them for 50 cents on sale? They have always reminded me of the free lunch program in elementary, the year after Mt. St. Helens exploded and wrecked the local economy. Tinny tasting pears, acidic stringy canned spinach and frozen milk. Nothing like gov’t surplus. Canning the pears made me smile and think of my Mom, packing quart jars full of pears and peaches late at night and knowing she was right. Fruit should be enjoyed and celebrated – not just slopped out of a metal can. If anything, I truly want to enjoy my food. And the work I put into it? Most times it makes the food taste better and I appreciate it more.
To my Mom…who I was thinking of this afternoon. When I saw this rock I knew I was in the right place – it was shaped like a female torso with a humpback, a little smaller than my palm. Stuck in the tide on the Pacific, in the Olympic’s. My Mom’s ashes were in my backpack and I walked along a section of the coast. I wanted to set her free but wasn’t sure. When I saw the rock I knew it was right. That was in February of 2008, she passed away in the summer of 2006. I let her ashes fly in the wind and slowly go out in the ocean with the tide. The fall before that, I spread my Dad’s ashes in Montana, along a wild river of his youth.
The rock comes with me when I hike, nestled in the top of my backpack, going to places I wished she had been able to see with me. Alpine lakes, mountain tops, long winding sections of forest…..
At home, “she” is on my kitchen counter, with me, while I cook and create. It is a soothing reminder of her I’d like to think she’d have approved. And that she’d have happily enjoyed my pears.
Honey Spiced Pears
- 6 pounds ripe but firm pears, preferably organic
- 1 cup granulated sugar, preferably organic
- 1 cup raw honey, preferably local
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar (5% acidity), preferably unfiltered
- 1 cup water
- 2 tsp whole allspice
- 1 tsp whole coriander seed
- 1 cinnamon stick, about 4″
Wash 5 pint jars, along with bands and new lids. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil, turn off and add the rings and bands to it. Cover and set aside. Add the clean jars to a large stockpot, bring to a boil. Turn off and keep covered.
Fill a large canning pot ¾ full of water, bring to a simmer. Sterilize a ladle, funnel and jar lifter (I dip them in boiling water). Set a clean kitchen towel on a counter near the stove.
Peel the pears one at a time, trim the top and bottom, cut in half and core with a small spoon. Place each half in a large bowl full of cold water and a tablespoon vinegar (to prevent browning).
Add the spices to a tea ball or a jelly bag, tie closed and add to a tall saucepan.
Add the sugar, honey, vinegar and water to the saucepan, bring to boil. Turn the heat down, cover and simmer carefully for 10 minutes (watch it CAREFULLY, it can boil over).
Drain the pears gently, add to the hot syrup. Bring back to a boil, turn heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the spices, discard them.
Take off the burner, set on a hot pad next to the towel. Drain the jars and set them on the towel. Pack the pear halves in the jars (a fork works well). Cover with the hot syrup, using a ladle and funnel. Sterilize a plastic or silicone spatula (or a plastic knife) and gently run it around the jar to remove any air bubbles. Fill with the remaining syrup as needed, leaving a ½” headspace.
Take a new paper towel, dip in hot water, squeeze out and wipe the jar rims as needed. Place a lid on, then a ring hand tightened.
Place the jars in a canning rack, submerge in the simmering water. Bring to boil, boil gently, covered, for 20 minutes. (If you live above 1,000 feet follow the extra time as noted in canning books, usually 5 extra minutes for every 3,000 feet).
Lift the jars out, set on a dry towel. Let cool, listening for the lids popping. Allow to cool fully, check the lids for being flat. If any have not sealed, refrigerate and eat within 2 weeks. Otherwise, store in a cool and dry area for up to a year.
Makes about 5 pints.