Chai Spiced Pickled Pears

Autumn is upon us and what do we think of? Apples! Apple cider, apple crisp,  I myself am guilty of being caught up in the madness. Maraschino Spiced Crab Apples, Oven Roasted Pink Applesauce,Spiced Poppy Seed Apple Chips. Three of my past five posts have involved apples!

But instead of focusing on the the autumnal darling, whose PR reps obviously knew what they were doing, I'd like to focus our attention on the often forgotten fall fruit the pear.

Certainly when you have little ditties involving apples preventing doctor visits or buttering up the ol' teach it's no wonder there is an apparent apple bias. But the real reason of the pear's unpopularity transpires not from smartypants PR wizzes and catchy jingles, it stems from the lack of awareness of the little pyrus's true flavor potential.

Just as a Red Delicious or Gala apple can be dull and flavorless in comparison to a Sweet Tango or Chestnut Crab, the same exists for our American perception of the pear. D'Anjou, Barlett, these hour glassy green commercial pomiculture varieties are bred for storage and shipping. Zero points in the flavor department.

There's hope though! Just as the Tango or Crab can rock your socks in the apple flavor department so can the pear. In Minnesota, some of my local favorites are Luscious, Patten, Parker and Summercrisp. They are often quicker to ripen and can bruise easier but flavor...hello!

It might be slightly more difficult to find these obscure varieties but check out your area co-op or natural foods store. Hopefully your store's produce department will be working with smaller operations promoting these local fall jewels. And if not, ask. They should be!!!

My fall pear hook-up comes from the the great team at Kalliroe Farm. Every three weeks September-November  I receive an apple share consisting of several bushels of certified organic apples and a small amount of major taste-bud appreciative fall pears. Click HERE if you'd like more info about Kalliroe and their apple/pear shares.

For this post I highlight the Patten Pear. Kalliroe farmer and Chippewa Water Quality Expert Paul describes the Patten as a good sized pear with both tenderness and juice. Light and flowery in flavor with a yellow color. Very good for fresh eating as well as canning.

Canning? Did someone say canning? Yes into the mason jar these little beauts went to preserve their lovely shape and sensational flavor. Winter hum drum repellent ready and waiting. Some vinegar, an infusion of chai spice and now my Pattens can greet me some subzero winter evening when I'm huddled next to my space heater cursing the cold.

So have a go at it. And if not this recipe at least experiment with purchasing a few of those obscure local pear varieties. You might not know what your missing until you try!

Chai Spiced Pickled Pears

Makes approximately 2 pints

  • 1 cup white wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon herbal chai dry chai blend
  • 10-12 small or 6-8 medium heirloom pears

1.  Combine the vinegar, sugar and chai spice (put the chai spice in a tea strainer or tie in cheese cloth) in a saucepan that will fit all the pears and liquid over medium high heat. Stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

2. Next, peel, quarter and de-seed the pears.  Have a small bowl filled with lemon juice to toss the pears in IMMEDIATELY after you peel and quarter them. (Not following this step will cause you to have brown discolored fruit.) Once they are all peeled and quartered remove from the lemon juice and set them in the simmering pickling solution. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the pears are tender but not mushy

3. Remove the pears from the liquid and set them in hot sterilized mason jars with shoulders (ie regular not wide mouthed). Return the vinegar syrup to a boil. Boil for a minute and then pour the liquid over the pears. Wipe the rims clean and seal with vinegar proof lids.

4. Process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Best if you wait to use after 2 weeks. Store in a cool cupboard. Use within one year.