Hey guys. Think I’m crazy? Meet my sister. Older, wiser, yes. But also, forgive me sis, way more neurotic. Please enjoy this guest post by my sister in family name and in lunacy, Julia:
Sister’s friends, there is one important thing to know about me and food: I hate to waste it. I am not sure where I got this obsession. My mother was never one to evoke “starving children in Africa.” More likely it grew out of my grandmother’s stories of eating boiled stinging nettle during the war. Regardless, I can’t stand to see anything wasted – ANYTHING. Like the pale inner wilted stalks of old celery – why not use them in a soup stock? Or one quarter of a lemon – better use it (and the zest!) in a salad dressing! Or even some lumpy sour milk – time for sour milk scones!
It’s a strange (and useful) quirk of my perfectionist personality. I like to think of it as my main apocalypse skill.
Of late, I have made this obsession into a more formal game. Here’s how it goes:
Every week I get a new box of vegetables from a local farm. I have to use them up in way that is not only efficient, but also delicious and healthy. In the process I accumulate other necessary ingredients (which I also have to use up). If anything rots, I lose.
The sick part is, and here is where this becomes a metaphor for my life, I can NEVER win. I will never use up everything. Even if I somehow managed to, I would just have to buy more food, you know, to live. But I can lose. Even as I type this I am feeling guilty about the 2 tbsp of tomato paste I know is molding in my fridge. Why didn’t I make a tomato-based lentil soup? Sigh.
Anyway, there is only one thing better than using up food you have paid for, and that is using up food that is free (keep me away from dumpster divers because I don’t need that kind of temptation in my life). So you can only imagine the joy I got from turning the unsightly pears growing in my backyard into delicious pear butter. It was satisfying for so many reasons. Like you can put the whole damn pear, skin, core and all, into the pot (no waste!). And then you can put it into sealed jars and save it, thereby relaxing the need to find creative ways to use it before it goes bad. Not that anyone would have that problem, because this stuff is so delicious. Try it on bruised banana muffins, or stale bread French toast or sour milk scones.
from Simply Recipes
4 to 5 lbs chopped Bartlett pears, do not peel or core them (remove any bruised or damaged parts)
1 star anise
2 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
2 cups water
1 cup lemon juice
3-4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Put chopped pears, star anise, and ginger into a large pot. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the pears are completely soft, anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat.
Fish out and discard the star anise from the pear mixture. Ladle the pear mixture (liquid included) into a chinoise or food mill and (use a pestle if using a chinoise) force the mixture through to a large bowl below. Discard remaining solids (seeds, stems, tough parts).
Measure the resulting purée, and pour into a large (8-qt), wide, thick-bottomed pan. For every cup of pear purée, add 1/2 cup of sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the cardamom, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Cook on medium heat, stirring often to prevent the purée from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Cook until the mixture is quite thick, and a small bit placed on a chilled plate is not runny. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the batch.
While the mixture is cooking, sterilize the jars for canning. To sterilized the jars, either 1) run them through the short cycle of your dishwasher, 2) rinse them and place them in a 225°F oven for 10 minutes, or 3) place them on top of a steaming rack in a large pot of water which you bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
When the pear butter is ready, pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal, allowing for 1/4-inch head space between the pear butter and the rims of the jars. If you plan to store the pear butter outside of a refrigerator, follow proper canning procedures. Before applying the lids, sterilize them by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying lids. Use a hot water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.
Makes 6 to 8 half-pint jars.