Several years ago a friend named Janet Parker "introduced" me to a giant pear tree in my neighborhood, one that bulges with dozens of pounds of free-for-the-taking fruit each September. One season Janet and I gleaned a huge load of pears from the tree and split them between our two households. As my hoard ripened, I made this pear butter in batches, refining the recipe each time. I learned that rosemary has an amazing affinity for pears, and that you just need a little for a wonderful effect.
By the way, I don't know what kind of pears grow on the tree that my friend and I pick from, but to me they will always be Janet Parker Pears.
This recipe yields 7 to 8 half-pints or about 4 pints.
Peel and cut up the pears, dropping the pieces into water as you go and leaving the cores behind. You should end up with 13-15 cups of pear pieces. Drain them very well and place in a large, heavy braising-style pot. Add just enough pear or apple cider to almost cover the pears (some may be sticking above the liquid). Tuck the cinnamon stick pieces beneath the surface. Bring to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until pears are very tender, 25-35 minutes.
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Remove cinnamon pieces from pears and set aside. Working in batches, puree the pears (with their liquid) in a food processor or blender until as smooth as possible. Transfer the batches to a large, heavy baking dish (or two, if necessary). When all the batches are combined, stir in the honey and bury the rosemary sprigs and cinnamon sticks in the sauce. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has deepened in color, is very thick, and is bubbly and dark brown around the edges, 2-3 hours. You may add a bit of lemon juice at this point to heighten the flavor, but be very judicious here. Cool the sauce completely, stirring often. The browned bits at the edges are utterly delicious, so scrape and stir them in to dissolve them (or better yet, devour them! they are artisanal candy.) Remove the rosemary sprigs and cinnamon sticks.
Divide pear butter into pint or half-pint containers and refrigerate or freeze them.
Dessert Cheese and Crackers with Rosemary Pear Butter: Place two small bowls on a plate. Fill one with pear butter and the other with Organic Valley Ricotta Cheese that has been sweetened with a little sugar or honey and pureed. Arrange Carr's Whole Wheat Crackers around the bowls. Serve with small knives for spreading.
Pear Butter Parfait: Spoon alternating layers of pear butter, vanilla yogurt and granola in tall, stemmed glasses.
Pear-Glazed Ham: Bake an Organic Prairie Ham Hardwood Smoked Ham. Twenty to thirty minutes before it is done, brush the ham with pear butter and continue baking until done.
Copyright by Terese Allen