Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Yet Another Canning Post: Pears
This canning season has been all about firsts so far. I did peaches for the first time last week and yesterday I did pears for the first time. It's been tiring and time consuming, but it's totally worth it. What made canning even better yesterday is that I got my husband to help out while the boy napped. Is it possible that peeling and coring pears is romantic? Because I was definitely feeling the love for my awesome husband - he made the process go by a lot faster.
Canning pears is quite similar to canning peaches, but there a few differences, hence this post. Plus, I discovered a new, must-have tool for canning fruit. Excited, aren't you?
I got an awesome deal on pears - I split a 36-lb. box of them with a friend, so I got 18 lbs. of pears for $12. I believe they are Barlett pears, US Grade extra fancy, straight from Oregon. So delicous and super-ripe. I can to get to work right away. My kitchen smelled heavenly just from the box sitting on my countertop! When picking pears to can, you want ones that are ripe but not soft.
For each quart, plan on using 2-3 pounds per quart. I ended up with nine quarts and one pint.
Anyway, here's how to can pears...
1. Wash, peel, and core pears.
Pears are a little more time consuming that peaches in that you have to peel and core them. And ripe pears are really slippery when you're peeling them. Once you've peeled the pears, cut the pear in half and remove the core. Here's where the new must-have gadget comes in: On Sunday, I told my friend at church that I was going to be canning pears soon and she told me, "You have to borrow my pear corer. Come to my house and get it." The next day, she demonstrated how to use it and I could already see how it would be a big time-saver. Instead of cutting around the core, you simply slide the loop down the middle and the core peels right out. It's amazing! I'm definitely buying a pear corer for myself for next year!
2. Treat to prevent darkening.
Like with the peaches, you can buy ascorbic acid or vitamin c powder. I just soaked my cut pears in some water and squeezed a lemon into the water. Worked just fine.
3. Make a light syrup and keep it hot.
I used the same syrup I used for my peaches, the light syrup directions in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving: 2 1/4 cups of sugar to 5 1/4 cup of water, making 6 1/2 cups of syrup.
4. Use the hot pack method and cook the pears.
This is the main difference between canning the peaches and pears. With the raw pack, you just put the cut-up fruit in the jars and pour the hot syrup over them. For the hot pack method, you have to cook the pears. To do this, cook the pears one layer at a time (meaning, they don't overlap in the pot) until hot throughout. This doesn't take long at all, just a few minutes. Be careful not to overcook your pears or they'll get mushy. When the syrup is boiling, gently put the pears into the syrup and let them cook until the syrup starts boiling again. Using the hot pack method for pears, from what I've read, is great for the flavor of the pears.
5. Pack the pears into hot jars.
Pack the hot pear halves into hot jars. The book says to leave a 1/2 inch of headspace.
6. Remove air bubbles.
To do this, use a plastic spatula or butter knife and insert it along the inside of the jar, between the fruit and the jar. Do this all around the inside, moving the spatula or knife up and down. I skipped this step and my jars boiled over and I had to re-do them. Total pain and a waste of lids.
7. Adjust lids & bands and process in canner.
Process pints for 20 minutes, quarts for 25. Also, don't forget to adjust for your altitude, if necessary.
With the help of my obliging husband, the peeling, coring, cooking, and packing took about an hour and half. The processing took over an hour to finish all the jars. So, really, canning isn't an all-day process. That is, unless you're feeling ambitious and you want it to be. Believe me, I've had those days (pluot jam, anyone?) and as exhausting as they are, you feel so proud of yourself after.
Today I'm canning apple pie filling and applesauce. I see salsa in my near future, as well. What are you canning this season?