I have access to free pears, so I've been spending a lot of quality time with pears lately. The pear is apple's sweet, mild autumn cousin, oft overlooked in the glorification of apple pie, apple butter, apple pandowdy, apple cider, and fried apples.
How often do you hear about pear pie, pear butter, pear pandowdy, pear cider, or fried pears? Pears get no respect. And yet almost everything you can make with apples is just as delicious with pears. In most cases, it's as simple as switching the apples with pears in the recipe and carrying on as otherwise directed, so don't tell me you don't have any good pear recipes. You do - you can find them under "A" for apples in your favorite cookbook.
Pears are a good source of vitamin C, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber - just like apples. Eaten fresh, pears pair well with cheeses and nuts, as apples do, and cooked, they combine nicely with similar spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger. Most of the common pears we know today came to us from Europe, but they originated thousands of years ago in southwest Asia and grow perfectly well in West Virginia.
If you don't have your own pear tree, you can find pears in season at the farmers markets now. Here are a few of my favorite pear recipes this year.
Pecan pear butter
Per quart pear sauce
1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar*
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
*Adjust amount of sugar to suit your tastes. Start with the lower amount and see how you like it. I use 1 3/4 cups.
Combine the pear sauce, sugar, pecans, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice in a large pot and mix well. Simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally. When the butter is thick - rounds up on a spoon - it's ready. Process pints or half-pints in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Spiced pear cake
4 cups sliced pears
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour