Pity the poor pear. Each autumn, apples get all the attention. It’s just not fair. Sure, pears show up in cooking publications, but they always seem to take a back seat to apples. That’s a shame, because pears eaten in their season, ripened mostly on the tree instead of being gassed into a semblance of ripeness, are succulent, sweet and utterly delicious.
There are more than 3,000 varieties of pears worldwide, but only a relative few produce edible fruit. Most of the pears produced in the U.S. are grown in the Pacific Northwest, but this time of year they can also be found in local produce and farmers markets.
Some pears, such as the Comice (which I always think of as Harry and David pears) have luscious textures that don’t take well to cooking; others, such as Boscs, have firmer flesh. Pears such as Bartletts, Reds and the tiny Sekels fall somewhere in between. The globular Asian, or Korean, pear is relatively new in U.S. markets. Though it’s a true pear, it almost seems like a cross between a pear and an apple.
One variety I’ve been searching for is the Lincoln pear. It’s something my mom has talked about for years: “There was a Lincoln pear tree at my Grandma Steven’s house,” she says. “The Lincolns looked like Bartletts, but when we picked them they were hard. We’d wrap them in paper and store them in the cellar. Even when they were hard, I loved them; they were crisp like an apple. On winter evenings when we’d pop popcorn, Grandma would bring them up from the cellar and we’d eat them with the popcorn. By then they were completely ripe and even more delicious.”
I’ve searched the Internet to find a source for the trees. They’re mentioned, but mostly by people also looking, and so far as I’ve been able to find, not sold by nurseries; nor have I come across anything that explains how they came by their name.
Hopefully I’ll someday find a Lincoln pear tree, but until then I’ll happily enjoy other pears every fall.
Contact Julianne Glatz at email@example.com.
Salad with pears, blue cheese, salt and pepper caramelized walnuts, and sherry honey dressing
For the salad/per person:
- 1 large handful of washed and torn soft lettuce leaves, such as Boston or Bibb
- About 2 T. crumbled blue cheese
- 6-8 salt and pepper caramelized walnuts
- 1 – 1 1/2 ripe pears, cored and sliced
- Sherry honey dressing
Place the torn lettuce into a large bowl. Add just enough dressing to lightly coat the greens and toss to combine. Arrange the lettuce on salad plates, then top with the sliced pears, blue cheese and walnuts.
Salt and pepper caramelized walnuts
- 1 1/2 c. walnut halves
- 1 egg white
- 1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 T. brown sugar, either dark or light
- 1 heaping tsp. coarse sea salt
Beat egg white until it begins to froth. Add the pepper and sugar and stir until the sugar is partially dissolved. Stir in the walnuts.
Turn onto a greased foil-lined pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and stir well. Reduce oven heat to 300. Return the walnuts to oven, checking every 5 minutes, until the coating looks dry and the nuts are lightly browned. Remove from the oven. The nuts should still be somewhat sticky; they’ll crisp up as they cool. Toss them with the salt and cool completely. If not using immediately, store in an airtight container.
Makes 1 1/2 c.
Sherry honey dressing
- 1 c. olive oil
- 5 T. sherry or red wine vinegar
- 4 T. yoghurt or sour cream
- 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or 1 tsp. regular salt
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1/4 c. honey
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 - 2 T. minced shallot, preferred, or onion
Whisk all the ingredients together. Let stand at least 30 minutes before using to meld the flavors. Will keep, refrigerated, for several weeks.
Makes about 2 cups.
Pears poached in red wine, honey and spices
- 4 firm but ripe pears, stems attached (Bosc pears work especially well)
- 1/2 bottle red wine – drinkable, but not necessarily expensive
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Lemon peel and juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- Marscapone or cream cheese, optional
Peel pears, leaving stems attached. Trim bottoms so they will stand upright. Place in a deep nonreactive saucepan just big enough to hold them.
Dissolve sugar and honey in wine and pour over pears. If pears are not completely covered, add water to cover. Add lemon peel and juice (do NOT add intact lemon half, as the white pith is bitter) and spices and bring to a boil on top of stove. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until pears are cooked through but not mushy – between 20-30 minutes, depending on their size.
Remove pears from liquid and keep warm. Strain poaching liquid and reduce until it’s syrupy. Serve the pears warm, with some of the sauce and a dollop of marscapone or cream cheese, if desired.
Refrigerate leftover syrup. It’s delicious drizzled over ice cream or yoghurt.
Pear and raspberry tarts
- 1 recipe almond tart dough, recipe follows
- 1 beaten egg
- 6 T. seedless red raspberry jam
- 3 firm but ripe pears, preferably a more rounded variety, such as Bartletts or Red pears
- Turbinado sugar, sometimes called coarse sugar or sugar in the raw, for sprinkling
- 1 pint fresh red raspberries
- Crme friche or whipped cream for garnish, optional
Preheat the oven to 350. Divide the nut crust into 6 equal portions. Press each portion into a disk about 4 inches in diameter and pinch up the sides to form a rim about -inch deep. Chill the tart shells for about 10 minutes to firm them, then transfer them to a baking sheet, preferably perforated.
Bake the shells for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven, brush the bottoms and sides lightly with the beaten egg and return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Cool the shells to room temperature.
Increase the oven heat to 400.
Halve and core the pears. They may be peeled or not. Cut each half into 4-6 slices. Trim off any narrow ends.
Spread the bottom of each tart shell with 1 T. of the jam. Arrange the pear slices in a concentric pattern on top of the jam. Each tart should take 4-6 slices. You may have leftover slices. Sprinkle each tart with about a teaspoon of the turbinado sugar.
Bake the tarts for 35-40 minutes, or until the pears are lightly browned and cooked through.
Remove the tarts from the oven and, while still hot, scatter a few raspberries over them. Use only about 6 per tart; they shouldn’t cover the entire surface.
Serve the tarts warm or at room temperature, with a dollop of crme friche or whipped cream if desired.
Makes 6 tarts.
Almond tart dough
- 1 c. finely ground almonds (measure BEFORE grinding)
- 1 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 T. brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 T. grated lemon peel
Mix all ingredients together well, either by hand or using a mixer or food processor. Press into pie or tart pan. Refrigerate or freeze until thoroughly chilled.
Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 25-30 minutes for a single pie shell, 15-20 minutes for individual tarts, or until golden brown. They should cool thoroughly before filling.
Makes one 9-12-inch pie or tart shell, or 6 or more individual tart shells