30 Sep 2006

Perfect Pears

Some believe that pears were first eaten in the Stone Age. What is known is that they have been cultivated in Asia for over 5000 years. They were extremely popular amongst Ancient Greeks and Romans and later in Western Europe. The first pear tree was planted in the States in 1620 by the early colonists. Today most pears are supplied by China, U.S.A. and Italy.

Pears (purus.communis) are related to the apple and the quince. Pear trees require cool climates to produce fruit. While there are hundreds of varieties of pears which differ in size, shape, color and taste, the most popular are Bartlett (William), Bosc, Anjou, Comice and Congerence.

Not only do they taste wonderful pears are healthy to eat. Pears have a good supply of vitamin C and K, copper, potassium and dietary fiber. The vitamin C and copper, amongst other properties, help prevent damage by free radicals. The potassium helps maintain carbohydrate and protein metabolism. With the fact that pears are a nutrient dense food with high amounts of fructose and glucose and a low glycemic index, they are excellent to eat before and after exercise. The dietary fiber in pears is good for a healthy colon and reduction of cholesterol. Studies show that they are a hypo-allergenic fruit, so are excellent when weaning babies.

When purchasing look for firm, unblemished pears. Pears should be left at room temperature to ripen and can be ripened very quickly by placing them in a brown paper bag. Once cut they must be eaten immediately or citrus juice must be applied or they will turn brown. Pears are served raw, baked or poached, and also made into jams, jellies, liqueurs and vinegar.

Get some today, raw they are a wonderful salad addition and poached they are a very delicious dessert.


Recipes of the Day

Acorn Squash Stuffed w/ Pears, Wild Rice, Walnuts
Adapted from a Pears USA Recipe

Toasting nuts brings out their full, rich flavor. Place the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly browned, about 5 to 8 minutes. Alternatively, the nuts can be browned in a microwave. Place the nuts in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave on high power for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Watch carefully that they don’t burn.

3 acorn or dumpling squash
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg
4 tbsps vegan margerine
¾ cup wild rice
1 ½ cups vegetable broth
¼ tsp salt, plus extra to taste
2 tbsps olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 large rib celery, finely chopped
2 firm Bosc or Anjou Pears, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into ½-inch dice
2 tsps minced fresh sage
2 tsps minced fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Cut each squash in half crosswise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and strings. If necessary, trim the top and bottom so that the squash will sit level, and place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle each half with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste. Using 3 tablespoons of the margerine, dot each half with some margerine. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake the squash just until moist and tender, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the rice, broth, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 2 cups of water, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, about 40 minutes. When the rice is done most of the water should be evaporated. In a 10-inch saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Swirl to coat the pan and saute the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the pears and saute 2 minutes longer. Cover the pan, adjust the heat to medium-low, and cook the vegetables until crisp-tender, 3 minutes longer. Add the sage, thyme, and parsley and saute 1 more minute. Remove from the heat. In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, sauteed vegetables and pears, walnuts and dried cranberries. Taste and add salt and pepper, if desired. Mound the rice mixture into the squash halves, dividing it evenly. Cut the remaining tablespoon of margerine into small pieces. Dot each stuffed squash with butter. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F until heated through, about 20 minutes. Serves 6

Ginger-Apple-Pear Butter
From the Vegetarian Times

This breakfast treat is wonderful from yourselves or one of those can’t-miss gifts your recipients will treasure. Unlike so many versions, the flavor of the fruit isn’t overwhelmed by too many spices—there’s just enough candied ginger to give it a spicy lift. An added plus: It’s as simple as can be!

5 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks
1-1/2 cups apple cider
2 tbsps finely chopped candied ginger
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 tbsps fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375°F. In large, nonreactive pot, combine apples, pears, cider and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until fruit becomes mushy, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar and lemon juice. Transfer about half the contents to a food processor, and process until smooth. Pour into large, shallow baking dish. Repeat with remaining fruit mixture. Bake 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Reduce heat to 350°F. Continue baking, stirring occasionally, until fruit butter has
darkened, thickened and reduced by about half, 40 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool completely. Spoon mixture into clean jars, and cover tightly. Butter will keep in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Makes 4 half-pint jars

Poached Pears in Hibiscus Sauce
From Vegan in Paradise
A longstanding, poached pears are favorite cold-weather dessert. Dried hibiscus flowers are most often steeped in boiling water to make a tangy tea. We discovered the tangy quality of hibiscus lends itself to forming the base of a delightful sauce in which to poach pears. The recipe
is easy to prepare and only requires a few ingredients. Enjoy!

1 cup dried hibiscus flowers (or hibiscus health tea from health store)
2 cups water
6 large pears (Anjou, Comice or Bosc)
1-1/2 cups water
2/3 cups dehydrated maple sugar
15 pitted dates
2 sticks cinnamon
Fresh mint leaves, optional

Combine hibiscus flowers and water in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 1 minute. Turn heat off and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Using a vegetable peeler, peel pears, leaving stems intact. Set aside. Remove cooked hibiscus flowers from saucepan with a slotted spoon, and reserve for a future use.* Pour hibiscus juice into a blender. Add water, dehydrated maple sugar and dates, and blend until dates are pureed. Pour this sauce into a 9" x 13" (23 x 32 cm) pyrex baking dish. Put pears into the sauce, standing upright. Add cinnamon sticks. Cover with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Bake at 325 F. (Gas
Mark 3) for 1-1/2 hours. To serve, put pears into dessert bowls, and spoon some of the sauce into each bowl. Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serves 6.

*The hibiscus flowers can be reused to make another batch of poached pears. Simply put the cooked hibiscus flowers into a plastic bag and store it in the freezer until ready to use. Take them from the freezer and follow the first step in the above recipe.


Anonymous said...

Wow those recipes look so unique- I've never used hibiscus before, only had it in teas. I like a good pear (like a bosc pear) but at least my experience here in the U.S. is that it's really hard to find a good one! They are often mealy and tasteless. What is happening to pears..?

Harmonia said...

How glorious are THOSE recipes!? WOW! Thanks for posting! Thanks for your comments on my peaceful post. I appreciate them...

I am thinking about doing saily shoutouts. I think I will start today! You will be one of them! YAY!

Have a smashing day!

Dirty Butter said...

It's hard to find pears around here that aren't bruised. Are canned pears as good for you as fresh?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words of support on my blog. I appreciate it.

I'll have to try that pear butter. It'll be a nice change from apple butter.

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, those recipes look so good! I recently made a stuffed squash, but I used apricots. I think the pear would be less tangy though and much more subtle! I will have to try it.

The apple pear butter though.... YUM!

Jackie said...

Wherever possible have fruit fresh as canning does destroy many nutrients, often is loaded with sugar and in most cases like pears changes the flavor.

Apart from this people do enjoy canned pears (my Father loved them), but I am not one of them.

Anonymous said...

I had no clue pears were this ood for you! I adore the pear. My first experience with this fruit was not a good one... at 6 or 7 i had a hard one that wasn't sweet and hurt my teeth to bite. I swore off this fruit because of that until i was in my early 20s! Wow, i missed out on so much. But not to worry, i make up for that now. And i'm with you on the canned pears... not a fan. Thanks for the good info here. And nice recipes, Jackie!

Kareno said...

These recipes sound amazing, thanks for sharing them

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is that I adore most foods, but pears are not one of my favorites. What's wrong with me?!?

These recipes might help my tastebuds readjust.