Thursday, October 19, 2006

Plums in Apple Juice and Vanilla Pears

This is my final canning post until next year.

My girlfriend Michelle went with me to the university sale a few weeks ago and picked up a bushel of plums. In addition to jam, she canned whole plums. She doesn't like sugar syrup, so instead she canned them in unsweetened, 100% apple juice (which she picked up on sale for 99 cents). Not only are they delicious, but pretty enough to give out as Christmas presents! Michelle just followed the whole plums recipe in the Ball Blue Book and then substituted apple juice for the syrup. You can also substitute white grape juice. Easy and yummy.

In a previous post, I mentioned vanilla pears in passing. Because of this, when people google "vanilla pears" they find their way to my blog. And I'm sure they're disappointed there is no recipe to be found here.

So, to correct the problem, here is my recipe: Put a teaspoon of vanilla in your syrup. That's all there is to it. Sometimes, I put in almond extract instead: That's way yummy.

For those of you who like exact recipes, here you go:

Canned Vanilla Pears
2 to 3 lbs. of pears per quart
real vanilla extract (don't buy the fake stuff - ick)
Wash pears and drain. Use an apple slicer/corer (I was going to post a picture, but Blogger is acting goofy. Instead click here.) to core and slice in wedges. Cut off skin. Treat to prevent darkening (you can purchase Fruit Fresh or just use 1 tsp. lemon juice to 1 gallon water)

Make a light syrup (see below) and keep hot.

Cook pears one layer at a time in syrup until hot throughout. Don't boil or heat too long, or your pears will start to fall apart. Just heat through.

Pack the hot pears into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Ladle hot syrup over pears, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with rubber spatula (don't use metal). Adjust 2-piece caps. Process pints for 20 minutes, and quarts for 25 minutes, in a boiling water canner.

Note: Pears should be harvested when full grown and, if necessary, stored in a cool place (60 to 65F) until ripe but not soft. I've found that pears get soft fast. I have to make sure that I have time set aside for canning when I buy a bushel of pears as they're not going to stay in the shed for long. Bartlett pears are considered best for canning. Kieffer and similar varieties are okay if properly ripe.

Of course, follow all the directions in your canning book for proper sterilization and canning!

Light Vanilla Syrup
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 1/4 cups water
1 tsp. vanilla extract (you can substitute almond or other extract)

Mix the sugar and water in large pot. Heat through until sugar dissolves. Don't bring to a boil. Add extract. Makes a subtle, yet delicious, syrup for your pears.

For cinnamon pears, skip the extract and add 2 sticks cinnamon and a few drops of red food coloring to the syrup. Remove cinnamon before packing the pears.

One year I canned mint pears and they came out pretty good. I used mint extract and green food coloring. It doesn't take much - add a drop at a time until it's the color you like. You may want to do the same with the extract (a drop at a time) - mint is strong and the taste should be subtle.

That reminds me, I have a ton of mint in the garden. It grows like a weed! Maybe I'll whip up some mint jelly before I put the canner back in the basement.

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