Happy Fall, Y'all!
This. This is my favorite. I love walking outside and NOT sweating. I love seeing the fog in the morning and the steam rising from the pond. I love the nights by the fire and the roasted marshmallows. I love the changing colors. I love curling up on the couch under a blanket reading a good book. I just love everything about the season we’re in.
And the food! I love the harvest we have in the fall. It’s different from the bounty in the summer, for sure. But there’s such peace and calm these days. It’s different from all the cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, peppers, corn and basil but it’s still so good. I actually pulled my tomato plants this weekend and am savoring the last tomatoes of the season. Thankfully I’ve already canned the majority of the summer harvest so we’ll have lots of tomato-ey goodness throughout the winter.
And speaking of canning, I am loving our pear jam! We have very old pears. The variety is so old and obscure no one here seems to even know a name for it. Barry’s great-grandmother planted pear trees on the property in the late 1800s/early 1900s and we have 2 trees left (which are GIGANTIC and still produce an insane amount of pears). Several years ago Barry grafted trees from those old trees and planted them in our new orchard, and they have pears!!! It’s so exciting, really. And since we have multiple sources for pears I’m able to play around with them and use them in lots of different ways. We love just eating them, of course, as well as juicing them for breakfast and then for cocktails in the evening. And baking with pears is another family favorite. But my favorite is to make an old timey pear jam.
This jam is all natural and easy to do. It takes a bit of time and elbow grease but I bet you have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now. I love it because you don’t need any added pectin packets. It’s just 3 ingredients – pears, sugar and lemon juice. I’ve had several folks ask for the recipe, so here it is:
Aliceson’s Vintage Pear Jam
1 pound pears
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice (if you just have the lemon juice in a bottle, use it!)
So that’s all it takes! You can use less sugar if you want and you can use more. I’ve seen old recipes that call for 1.5 cups of sugar per pound of pears but even I think that could be a bit excessive. I’ve used less. I have played around with 3/4 cup to over a cup. One batch I did 1/2 cup and it turned out more as a drizzle than jam but I still used it. But basically, in these old recipes you’ll need a cup of sugar for a pound of fruit. That’s a lesson for life, folks!
Here’s how it works:
You need to core and dice your pears. If you’re picky or have picky people, skin those pears! But if not, rejoice in your luck and just dice those puppies right up. Our pears are impossible to peel. The skin is so thin you don’t need to, so I just leave it on. Honestly it gives it a nice bit of color, since pears are basically completely bland in appearance.
Once you have your pears diced, pour on the lemon juice and stir so every piece is coated and then POUR ON THE SUGAR (I’m having some strong Def Leppard lyrics running through my head now, even though I know these are not the completely correct lyrics). Stir to combine everything and refrigerate 12 hours AT LEAST. Don’t hurry this step, people!
Once the pears are done soaking in their yummy syrup, pour it all in a large, heavy pot. Really large and really heavy. Then bring to a boil over the stove and boil, stirring often (DON’T LET IT BURN!!) until you get to the jelly stage. You know you’re at this stage when your thermometer reads 225 degrees. Don’t have a candy thermometer? Me either! I know I’m at that stage when I get down eye level with the pot and see the steam go way, way down in volume. The volume of steam released decreases significantly when the water content gets low. It means all the water has been cooked out and you’re left with a jelly-like consistency (or will be when it’s cooled). Also you can tell by the glass like bubbles in the pot (that’s what “they” say. I don’t know who “they” are and I’ve never been able to tell by that method. I use the steam method and its 100% accurate). Also if you need, when you’re cooking, pop a plate in the freezer to cool. When you think you’re about there with the jam, take a dollop and put it on the cold plate. It should become your desired consistency pretty quick. Smear it around on the plate with the back of a spoon for good measure. It’ll be jam-like.
Now, remove the pears from the heat BEING CAREFUL because they are the temperature and consistency of lava. If you need the pears smaller than you diced them just use a potato masher on them. I have experimented with the consistency and placed them in my food processor or blender to pulse until less chunky. Both work quite well.
Once you’ve got the desired product, put them in tiny little mason jars and freeze. This is freezer jam, folks, and you’ll be loving them all winter on biscuits, charcuterie trays, pork chops or even Barry’s favorite, English muffins (which I am terrible at making, in all honesty. But the chickens seem to enjoy them!). These make sweet little gifts with a loaf of homemade bread for a sick friend or just a little pick-me-up. Because, let’s face it, we all need a pick-me-up these days!
So love yourself and your people. Enjoy every bite!