Thursday, February 19, 2009

PEARS AND PEOPLE




Tomorrow morning, our Littlest one will be visiting for the day, and we’ll be cooking one of her favorites: Several big fat biscuits to share---cut open steaming from the oven, a good knob of butter laid in to melt its richness all over the insides, then some of the homemade pear preserves I made last Summer. Her biscuit gets just a little drizzle of the clear, sweet syrup, with tiny bits of pear finger-thumbed from her shining steel tray.

Chris and I like the nice rosy hunks of pear enclosed in the poufy biscuit---he lifts his to his mouth and takes a big bite, chewing with enjoyment. I like mine put together like a round little sandwich, then eaten bite by bite with my fork, between nibbles of crispy bacon.

We thought we'd missed out last year, for no one made the trip either up from or down to the pear trees at the old homeplace in Mississippi in the Summer. However, one sunny afternoon, Chris came home with a bushel-and-a-half from where else???


A YARRRRRRRD SAAAAAAALE!!!

He stopped to look around at a house WAY out Highway 74, and didn't see much of anything to buy. He got back in the car and started to pull out into the road, when he saw a huge pear tree, still hanging pretty full, and completely surrounded with a goldy-green moat of fallen pears.

He went back and asked if he could buy some, and they said "Help Yourself---we're glad to get rid of them." And then, for convenience, and just to be polite, he did buy a one-dollar empty bushel basket and a fifty-cent peck.

It took me quite a few hours to peel and cut the bushel---an old sand-pear is the armadillo of the fruit-world---they give no quarter, aren't any good to eat, and will fend off the sharpest knife, until you let down your defenses. THEN will come a slide and a nip and the knife's bitten YOU. Sly, tough old things.

I used quite a generous amount of "Fruit-Fresh" in the water as I peeled and set aside, and they kept the nice pale color of a just-chopped apple. By morning, the mountain of sugar had coaxed a lot of lovely juices out of those hard little pellets of pear, and the hour or so of cooking turned them rosy and chewily-soft, all sweet and the very essence of pear. Kind of a Cuisinical Miracle, I think---something so unyielding and stand-offish, hiding its promise literally under a bushel, then blossoming into the soft sweet rosiness of a new doll's cheek.

Sometimes I think about these old pears when I meet or hear a grumpy or loud or curmudgeonly person---they seem all prickles and stings, with no give to them, turning a hard shoulder and resisting all approaches with surly rebuff, but finding their true selves in the alchemy of sweet warmth.





They just need a good nap and some sweetening to make them rosy and fit to be in any company. I hope I don't ever stop thinking that.

6 comments:

Jon said...

Racheld,
Your posts always give me warm and happy memories and flashbacks. My grandmother and mother always made "pear honey" and "pear relish" from these hard and gritty sand pears. Both were delicious recipes passed down from our ancestors, and it is a damn shame nobody ever wrote them down. Why didn't I? Lost forever now. That is why it is so important that you are making and preserving digital and paper records of your wonderful recipes through your posts and notebooks and files. They are treasures your own descendants and blog readers can cherish and have for reference forever.
I admire you for doing so.

Jon at Mississippi Garden

racheld said...

Jon,

Next Summer when you pass a loaded old Sandpear tree, or see the windfalls littering the ground, ask if you can buy some, and give me a shout---I'll talk you through the three steps to Pear Preserves.

It's just peel and cut, throwing them into acidulated water, then draining well, pouring on dry white sugar for overnight, then cooking off the pan (enamel---my LeCreuset Dutch Oven makes six pints at a time).

You have to can whilst they're REALLY hot, then turn upside down to cool.

Or, you can buy the Sandpears at our grocery stores, right up there with the Seckels and Boscs. It might be worthwhile to make a coupla pints---I made six pints of pear honey, just by whizzing the cooled syrup-and-pears in the blender, then bringing back to a good boil before canning. It's lovely.

And I don't KNOW why it's Honey.

sparrowgrass said...

Mmmm--sounds good. I have an old pear tree up in the back--this property was an orchard, fifty or sixty years ago.

And I will have my own Littlest One, coming in October!! Might be a while before I get to feed it biscuits and pear preserves--they seem to have changed the rules for feeding babies since the last time I did it.

racheld said...

I'm SO HAPPY for you!!!

A brand new PERSON!!! And you get all the perks and hugs and sweet baby scents you can hold. This is wonderful!

Pam said...

Rachel,
I'm just catching up on your blog after a couple of weeks of nasty illness...

We had an old pear tree at our house in Missouri. Glen's aunt always made pear honey, I made pear chutney and we gave LOTS of pears away. I used to wrap them in newspaper and store them on the porch. I'd unwrap a few in the dead of winter and make something akin to applesauce, but made with the hard pears, that would've softened some in their cool napping place.

I sure miss that old tree and my asparagus patch!

Pam

racheld said...

Pam,

I'm glad you're all better, and hope you're fit and well for Spring!

Our little famly in Georgia had a terrible bout of something-or-other, and I guess it's the season. It just made my heart weep because I wasn't there to see after them.

And speaking of wrapping---I just cleared out the last of the Fall-wrapped tomatoes from the cool store-room, and a couple of them were still fresh and went nicely into a salad. Those plants and their bounty almost made the circuit of the year. And we used to remark on having some for with the New Year blackeyes. Wow.