Sometimes Asian pears are available in grocery stores. Usually they’re wrapped in little sweaters to keep them from bruising, and usually they’re expensive (the other day I saw them for $1.67 each, not including the sweater). I like them but not enough to spend that kind of money on them. But we have friends with some Asian pear trees, and last night they brought us a boxful. They’re too watery to make pie or jam from, so I decided to pickle them.
This is not a comprehensive manifesto of every single thing about canning. There are many good reference books out there on the subject – I use the Sunset Canning & Preserving Book – as well as websites like National Center for Home Food Preserving or Fresh Preserving.
Peel the pears, cut into quarters, and cut out any bad spots. These had been hit by rain in the spring and pockmarked, so some of them had worms.
As you peel and trim them, drop into a gallon of acidulated water (1 gallon cold water + 2 tablespoons salt + 2 tablespoons vinegar).
Once all the pears are sitting in the water, combine 1 quart white vinegar, 1 quart water, and three pounds sugar in a large pot. Add 2 tablespoons mixed pickling spices, 4 cinnamon sticks (broken up into small pieces), 3 star anise (broken up) and 1 tablespoon whole cloves. Bring this to a boil.
As this is heating, put canning jars in a canning kettle filled with water, along with lids and ring bands. Heat until they are simmering.
When the sugar-vinegar syrup is boiling, drain the pears and add them. Bring the pears to a boil.
Assemble these items:
A jar lifter, tongs, wide-mouth funnel, and ladle.
Take a jar from the simmering water and drain the water back into the kettle.
Note: this may look like an ordinary jar, but it is a Mason jar that a commercial brand of spaghetti sauce was packed in. NEVER use old mayonnaise jars or the like when canning at home unless they specifically say Mason or Kerr or Ball on the side.
Using the ladle to scoop the pears out of the syrup, fill the jars. If you’re not using a wide-mouth jar, you’ll need the funnel to ensure everything goes into the jar and not onto the stovetop. Once the jar is filled with fruit, add syrup to within 1/4″ of the top. I also added three or four whole cloves to each jar.
Then carefully wipe the rim of the jar with a wet paper towel. If any tiny seed or bit of fruit sticks to the rim, it could interfere with sealing.
Using the tongs, remove a lid and ring band from the water. Put those on the jar and tighten as comfortably as you can by hand.
As each jar is filled, use the jar lifter to return it to the hot water in the kettle.
The hot water should cover all jars by at least 1/2″. When all jars are filled, increase heat so that water is at a slow boil (a hard boil may loosen lids or even crack the jars). Process jars 10 minutes for pints, 15 minutes for quarts.
Remove jars to a towel and let cool completely. Test by pressing down on the lid. It should stay down. If lid pops back up when jar is completely cool, you can either reprocess it (reheating fruit and syrup to a boil and refilling the sterilized jar, then processing again in hot-water bath) or store the jar in the refrigerator and use within 2 months. If there are any extra pears that didn’t fit in the jars, cover with syrup and store in a bowl in the refrigerator.
These pickles are good to eat right away, or let age for a couple of weeks. These make a great relish to go with meats or as part of a relish/antipasto plate. You can use peaches, apples, pears, apricots, plums, and so on to make other fruit pickles the same way.