The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 09.22.08


A pear a day keeps the apples away

Most of us think of apples at this time of year as chilly nights lay glistening dew upon orchard fruits. A warming of kitchens occurs across the land in anticipation of pie making and jam and jelly processing.

Apples are great of course, but so are our local pears. Friends who have a bumper crop in their established backyard recently gave me a large bag of Pyrus Communis. Of course I had to devise a way to put them to good use beyond the toothy and juicy succulence of eating them au natural.

I improvised a simple upside down cake using maple syrup, sliced ripe pears, butter, a few pecans for good measure, and a touch of cardamom to add a little exotic je ne sais quoi.

Pretty simple really, as I procured a packaged yellow cake mix from the store, caramelized a cup (237mL) of the syrup, a pinch of cardamom and 2 tablespoons (30mL) of butter ever so slightly, poured the whole thing over 2 cups (473mL) of thinly sliced pears and topped the whole lot with the cake batter.

Baked at 350 degrees F (175 C) for 35 minutes, the result was outstanding if I do say so myself. If you decide to do this, go easy on the cardamom as it can overpower and keep on eye on the cake in case your oven runs hot.

You want a golden result, not dark brown. Oh, and line your eight inch square pan with parchment for easy removal later. A scoop of vanilla or maple ice cream served on top of this warm and sticky treat will do no harm.

This is how I am going to steam up my windows with my next batch of pears.

Pear Butter

4 pounds (1.8Kg) ripe pears (about 20 to 25 medium pears), peeled, cored & cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) chunks
5 cups (1.2L) apple cider
2 1/2 cups (592mL) light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons (22.5mL) cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons (22.5mL) grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon (1.25mL) powdered cloves
2 tablespoons (30mL) vanilla extract (optional)

Bring cider to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced to 2 1/2 cups (592mL) or about half. Add pear chunks and cook until fruit is soft and translucent, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a food processor.

Puree until mixture is smooth. Wash original pan or use another. Add fruit puree, brown sugar, spices, and stir to dissolve. Bring mix to a simmer, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Cook until very thick, about 30 minutes or more. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature. Add optional vanilla if using it. Put pear butter into clean sterilized canning jars, seal with canning lids and rings. Immerse in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Makes 4 to 6 pint (500mL) jars.