January 4, 2011

A beginning note

2010 went out quietly and the new year started in just the same manner for me. Quiet doesn't necessarily equate boring, so that's not a bad start, however tame it may seem. I've never been one for parties and large crowds, any way, so a mellow evening making Thai food and watching Hitchcock was more to my liking.

So, with a tame start to another year, I have a tame recipe for you. Not Thai food, or something flashy, but something with pears. Yes, pears that have been spiced and cooked down with apples into a sauce worthy of your breakfast plate. Inspired by the applesauce from back in October and half a bag of leftover Anjou pears (also known as d'Anjou) from Thanksgiving, the idea for making a sauce wasn't long in coming.

Since the end of November, I've made this four times. Four times in just over a month. That's a lot of applesauce, but I'm telling you, this stuff is worth it. You'll want to brave the frequent use of a vegetable peeler to make it over and over again, too. Something about the way the pears and apples cook down works really well, meshing together yet keeping their distinctive flavors. Anjou pears are firm, but after simmering on the stove long enough, they become soft and juicy while still retaining their shape, whereas the apples break up and turn slightly mushy, in a good way. So, you end up with a mixture of textures and a sweet, bright flavor complimented with, of course, a little cinnamon.

Much like the previous applesauce recipe, lemon peel and lemon juice cause the fruit to pop and temper the sugar. The pears, though, add another dimension that I find irresistible, enough to say that I prefer this version to the original, however good that one was.

Since the pears hold their shape, this version is meant to have a chunky consistency, which is a necessary component in enjoying it, if you ask me. If you really want a smoother texture, though, you could process it in a blender or food processor.

Adapted from this recipe

1 cup water
2 - 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 strips of lemon peel
2.5 lbs Anjou pears
2 lbs Granny Smith apples
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 6-in. cinnamon sticks, broken in half
       (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
a pinch of sea salt

Combine water, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a large saucepan. Peel, core, and cut pears and apples into ¾-inch pieces. Add pieces to lemon water as soon as they are cut, to prevent browning.

Add sugar, cinnamon sticks, and salt to fruit. Stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until soft and almost translucent, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Discard lemon peel and cinnamon sticks. Using a potato masher, mash pears and apples to chunky consistency.

Allow sauce to cool, then transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 1 ½ quarts.

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