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Pears: From the Tree to the Shelf

August 18, 2015

Pears are not really the easiest harvest to manage, and this year The Gardener had a bumper crop.  Pears are kind of high maintenance in this Southern California climate.

In an ideal world, pears would mature in the fall.  They experience the natural chill of the coming winter while still hanging on the tree.  To ripen, pears need exposure to cold followed by about a week off the tree.  When you can pinch up next to the stem with your thumb and forefinger and the pear gives just a bit, it’s ripe and ready to eat.

That whole chill-on-the-tree thing doesn’t work in these parts.  The pears become mature in mid-summer and thus the harvest begins during some of the warmest months of the year.  In order to experience the chill, they need to go in the refrigerator for a week or so.  This is kind of the reverse of the sweet potato conundrum in which case they need to be cured in a warm place before using.  I don’t know about your refrigerator, but it’s a stretch to fit two bushels of pears in mine.  We managed, but it required The Gardener to stagger the harvest with each batch taking a turn in the fridge.

As the pears came out of the refrigerator, the Harvest Manager planned successive weekends for sharing, canning, and otherwise preserving.  We took

Canned Pears

Canned Pears

a large dish of poached pears to a garden party, canned 16 quarts, and will soon be stirring up some pear butter.  We also eat what we can and give them away when visiting friends and family.

Canning pears is not hard, just time consuming.  You have to peel each pear, core and slice, submerge it in lemon water to keep it from turning brown, heat it in syrup, put it in a jar, and then put the jar in a water bath.  I can strongly recommend a melon baller for scooping out the core.  I’m not going to reproduce the canning recipe here, as it’s very standard and easy to find.  Here’s an overview from the United States Department of Agriculture with some specifics about pears.

I can strongly recommend the poached pears recipe from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food.  Her poaching syrup, which includes lemon zest and cinnamon, makes a lovely canning syrup as well.

Soon to be pear butter.  I'm guessing this will yield about 5 pints

Soon to be pear butter. I’m guessing this will yield about five pints


For the pear butter, still on the schedule for this weekend as the pears ripen on the counter, I’m going to turn to the old reliable Stocking Up, page 271.

A word to the wise – If your Gardener doesn’t have a pear tree, try to keep it that way.  Managing the harvest will not be a small undertaking in the event there’s a bumper crop.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. rebecca higgins permalink
    August 18, 2015 12:51 pm

    I canned peaches for a while. Most likely the same process, meaning, a lot of work standing up and a lot of hot water to dispose of prior to the next batch. Although the trees died my memory of those wonderful peaches in winter remain very much alive. Enjoy!

    • August 20, 2015 11:12 am

      The canning process for peaches and pears is almost exactly the same. The main difference is that you can slip the skins off of a ripe peach after a few seconds in boiling water. Pears have to be peeled manually. These days the water, once cooled, goes out into the garden!

  2. Louis permalink
    August 20, 2015 11:05 am

    The fresh pears we got have all been great! Many thanks! Looking forward to trying the canned variety on a salad as you suggested. Perhaps with cottage cheese?

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