In Season: Pear pleasure

The luscious fruit are in ample supply, so enjoy them now.

Pear Pleasure (photo credit: MCT)
Pear Pleasure
(photo credit: MCT)
Pears are one of the signature fruits of autumn and make a nice change of pace from summer’s delicate fruits. Though there are thousands of varieties, Bartletts are the best known in the US. In Israel, the most popular kind is called Spadona. They’re recognized by their shapely bottoms and long necks. They arrive rock-hard at the grocery store. Most pears ripen off the tree, turning from green to yellow in the store or at home, their flesh turning from crunchy and tart to creamy and super sweet and juicy. If the neck near the stem yields when pressed, it means the pear is on its way to ripening.
Firm, ripe pears are what’s needed for these recipes. Softer pears will turn mealy as they cook. Pears can be used in place of apples in any recipe. The advantage of using pears is that they allow other flavors to shine. That means you can really taste the touch of cardamom and apricot jam in the pie. Pears also have more fiber than apples: five grams to an apple’s three grams. A medium-size pear, though, has more calories: 98 calories versus an apple’s 81.
Makes 20 to 30 chips 
 3⁄4 cup sugar 
 1⁄4 tsp. cream of tartar 
 1 cup water 
 2 firm pears 
Preheat oven to 100º.
In a medium-size saucepan, combine the sugar, 1 cup water and 1⁄4 tsp. cream of tartar and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and continue to simmer while slicing the pears.
Slice the pears 2-3 mm. thick, using a mandoline. Immediately immerse the pear slices in the boiling sugar. When the syrup has resumed a rapid boil, remove the slices with a slotted spoon to a plate. When cool enough to handle, place slices on a pan lined with parchment paper. Make sure the slices don’t touch or overlap. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Once the chips take on a dry appearance, remove one from the oven and allow it to cool on the counter. If it’s crispy once it’s cooled, it’s ready.
The chips will keep for two weeks, or longer if refrigerated.
Makes six 8-ounce jars 
 1 cup white vinegar 
 8 cups coarsely chopped, cored, peeled pears 
 3 red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped 
 3 green bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped 
 1 cup granulated sugar 
 2 Tbsp. salt 
 2 tsp. dry mustard 
 1 tsp. turmeric 
 1⁄2 tsp. ground allspice 
 1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 
Prepare canner, jars and lids.
In a large steel saucepan, combine vinegar and pears. Add red and green peppers, sugar, salt, mustard, turmeric, allspice and black pepper. Bring to a boil over mediumhigh heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1⁄2-inch headspace. Wipe rim, center lid on jar.
Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to finger-tip tight. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process 225-gr. and 0.5-liter jars for 20 minutes. Remove canner lids. Wait five minutes to remove jars.
Cool and store the salsa.
Serves 16 
 13⁄4 cups all-purpose flour 
 1 cup granulated sugar 
 21⁄2 tsp. baking powder 
 1⁄2 tsp. salt 
 2 large eggs 
 1 cup sour cream 
 1⁄2 cup unsalted butter 
 11⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract 
 21⁄2 cups firm ripe pears, coarsely chopped
Non-stick baking spray 
In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add eggs, sour cream, butter and vanilla to flour.
Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat for 1 minute until blended.
Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula. Beat on medium
for 1 minute.
Gently stir in pears.
Spread batter evenly in a 33x23-cm. baking pan sprayed with non-stick baking spray with flour. Bake in preheated oven at 180º for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
This cake is delicious – not too sweet – without a crumb topping.
Crumb topping: Blend using your fingertips: 1⁄2 cup allpurpose flour, 1⁄2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1⁄3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, and 11⁄2 cups chopped walnuts.
Blend ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle evenly on batter before baking.
Makes 1 pie 
4 Tbsp. apricot preserves 
5 cups firm ripe pears (about 6 or 7) 
1⁄3 cup granulated sugar 
1⁄3 cup brown sugar 
1⁄4 tsp. each nutmeg and cardamom 
21⁄2 to 3 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca 
3 Tbsp. butter 
Unbaked pastry for two-crust pie 
Preheat oven to 180º. Line a pie plate with half the pastry. Mix pie ingredients, dot filling with butter and top with remaining crust. Vent the top of the pie.
Bake 40 to 50 minutes. Check for doneness by sticking a
fork into the fruit and checking for tenderness.
Pears will soften but remain firm when baked into a pie. The juices in this pie will not bubble up as in a peach or cherry pie, so less tapioca will result in a juicier filling.