Thursday 8 September 2011

Pickled pears

The other day a friend kindly gave me about about 5 pounds of pears. They were mostly very firm (i.e. under-ripe) and just perfect for making one of my favourite delicacies - pickled pears.

With a bit of help from Jane (although she has only done these a couple of times before) and with reference to one of our longest-owned cookery references, the Cordon Bleu monthly magazine, I made them into these:-

This is the recipe, loosely based on the Cordon Bleu one, though I suspect that pickled pears have been made in much the same way in many households around the world for hundreds of years!

4 pounds of cooking pears (must not be too ripe)
1 pint of white wine vinegar
1.75 pounds of granulated sugar
One small stick of Cinnamon
About 6 cloves

Tie the spices into a small pice of muslin or J-cloth to form a sort of Bouquet Garni
Put the Bouquet Garni into a big pan, along with the vinegar and the sugar
Heat the pan slowly to boiling point, stirring frequently to ensure that the sugar fully dissolves
Remove the pan from the heat and allow to stand
Peel the pears, cut them into quarters and remove the cores
Place the pears in a pan and add just enough water to cover them
Simmer the pears for one hour
Drain the pears and add them to the pan containing the vinegar syrup
Simmer again for about another hour until the pears are soft and translucent
Drain the pears, retaining the syrup, and pack them tightly into jars
(Note: it's best to warm the jars in the oven for a few minutes beforehand to avoid cold glass cracking on contact with hot pears)
Return the vinegar syrup to the heat and boil it for a few minutes until it thickens (but doesn't caramelize)
Allow the syrup to cool a bit and then pour it into the jars, covering the pears completely
When cooled, cover with tight-fitting lids.

Now the hard part:
Leave to mature for ONE MONTH before eating! Enjoy.

Pickled pears are a great accompaniment to practically any cold meat, especially ham or turkey, and cheese (especially blue cheese). Eat them in circumstances when you might otherwise have a pickled onion (though be aware that the pears will be sweet!)

Today I also harvested nearly 2kgs of cherry tomatoes, a mixture of the red "Maskotka" and the yellow "Tumbling Junior Yellow", along with a few of the bigger "Ferline" ones, and a couple of the "Green Zebra". The latter are not fully ripe yet, but I want to ripen them indoors so that I avoid the risk of losing them to blight or bad weather. Here they are on the Dining Room table next to my pickled pears. In the background is a tray of Physalis fruits, which I will write about some other time...


  1. Mark, your pickled pears are just candy for the eye, as well as being delicious, I know! I am amazed at all your pretty tomatoes of different varieties. Beautiful!

  2. I've not done much pickling as most of it seems to require a bigger glut than I normally have (I'm more of a chutney girl) but have got more pickle prone over the years. It strikes me these would be one of the things it would be feasible to do with bought fruit...hard pears being pretty easy to come by on the market.

    You said that you need to wait for a month until eating them, are they better for keeping longer, and how long do you keep them? I'm assuming they would be ideal with all that Stilton that comes down in price just after Boxing Day?!

  3. Hi esculentetc: the length of time a pickled pear will keep depends on how many you pickle. They don't generally hang about too long when I'm around. I do think they improve with keeping, up to a certain point (maybe 3 or 4 months?), but I wouldn't keep them over 6 months. Shop-bought pears would be fine - just fairly pricey, I expect, since you need a fair few of them.
    BTW: Pickled pears with Stilton is the "marriage made in heaven"!

  4. I've never heard of pickled pears, we've only ever had them canned in a sugar syrup. Thanks for the recipe, I'll have to give it a try.

  5. 2 kg tomatoes! Nice haul! No refrigeration for the pears? No hot water bath - true old school canning... I bet they are delicious.

  6. Never tried pickled pears, I am curious now! :-).

    Very envious of your tomatoes!


  7. Such beautiful tomatoes! Never seen the green zebra variety.

  8. I haven't tried a pickled pear, but a tropical pear tree is up the top of my wish list! One day...

    Your tomato harvest looks superb, and I can't wait until you try the green zebras!

  9. I've never eaten pickled pears, I bet they're delicious. Nice tomato haul, you've done well with them.

  10. I'd never heard of pickled pears - so do apples pickle too?

  11. I've had pickled quinces but I've never thought to do pears - something for next Autumn.

    Beautiful tomatoes!

  12. I finally got around to this having picked up some Conference pears quite cheaply. Used a slightly different method in the end but they smelled great when cooking and I tasted the vinegar "syrup" that was left over, which is delicious, oddly enough. There was a jar-ful, so we are going to have a go at some chilli sauce with it. Thanks again for the idea and (rather late) for your reply!

    Now I just have to wait a few weeks before we can try some...

  13. Just to finish this off - I had a jar of pickled pears at Christmas and they were superb, both with local cheeses, a very hard mature (but not sharp) Cheddar style and a softer blue Stilton type both enhanced and were enhanced by. My brother found it too strong; but then he didn't like the cheeses either so I think we can discount his taste ;-) and my better half seems indifferent but he's a bit odd (that's probably what I like about him, besides which all the more pickled pears for me!).

    Sadly a house move put paid to the chilli sauce idea (although I have kept the jar of syrup and have a bag of chillis in the freezer, so you never know).

    Thanks very much for the inspiration - if it weren't for such enthusiasm in your post, and the lovely pictures, I would probably have continued to dismiss the idea. As it is I am now looking more carefully through my Marguerite Patten book to see which fruit I can usefully pickle next...


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