It was heart warming, especially after last week’s rant related to holiday commercialism, to be reminded about good community and small, but recurring moments and objects of beauty. Our tiny rural village community holds an annual holiday potluck, usually in an old stone church. This year, as the church has been sold to the regional council and is under renovation, the community held the potluck in a greenhouse. How wonderful it was to walk out of -20 degree Celsius air and into the warmth normally reserved for plants to share food and company with neighbours.
Here, as promised, another food gift. These are beautifully perfumed and make lovely gifts, especially for busy cooks. They make an instant dessert paired with pastry, ice cream or cookies, and the syrup is a lovely addition to cocktails (albeit in small amounts). This recipe is loosely adapted from one in a wonderfully creative preserving book, Tart and Sweet, by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler (the book makes a lovely gift in and of itself).
Pears Packed in Honey Vanilla Syrup
6 pounds (2.7 kg) pears, peeled, quartered, cored and trimmed to fit into pint jars
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice squeezed into a medium bowl half filled with water
1 ½ cups (350 ml) honey
1 cup (250 ml) water
1 vanilla bean
Wash and sterilize the jars, following instructions from an earlier post.
As you cut the pears, place them in the bowl of water and lemon juice to keep them from browning.
In a medium saucepan, bring the honey and 1 cup of water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape the seeds from each half into the syrup. Lower the heat and keep warm while you prepare the jars. Cut the vanilla bean into smaller pieces and add one piece to each jar. Tightly pack pear slices into hot sterilized jars. Pour boiling syrup over the pears, leaving half a centimeter (1/4 inch) headspace. Be sure the pears are covered in syrup (you can use the handle of a wooden spoon to gently push the pears down into the syrup. Check for air bubbles, wipe the rims, and seal.
Process the sealed jars, submerged under boiling water for 15 minutes, adjusting for elevation.