The house we live in has a pear tree in front. Last year (our first in the house), it made almost no pears. We thought about putting a partridge in it at Christmas time, figuring it was ornamental rather than functional.
This year, however, it made an enormous number of pears. Go figure. The weather this year doesn't seem that different from last year. I guess it was saving up. We decided it would be a crime to waste all those pears, and that we should can them.
Unfortunately, neither one of us had ever canned anything in our lives. We called our friends Jim and Sindi who grow fruit themselves, and they loaned us:
Mark began picking pears while Carol searched for recipes and instructions on the net. It took a bit to get the hang of the pole, but once mastered it was very effective.
Carol tried her hand at picking pears too, but panicked when one fell on her. Here's an action shot, with closeup:
In all we picked 4 buckets of pears:
Next Carol washed and dried the pears:
A few pears seemed almost ready, and we left these on the counter next to the sink. Carol sorted the rest according to how mature they were, and we put them in boxes to ripen:
We labelled all the boxes "Sooner" or "Later" and put them on the dining room table:
Finally, Mark washed the jars and lids, in preparation:
Carol borrowed the Ball Blue Book Guide To Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration from a coworker. ("Ball" is a company which makes jars and other canning supplies. I swear I didn't get the double entendre until I typed the title just now.) This book is often cited as a reference for how to can things, and it contains 15 recipes for pears.
Carol moved some of the pears from the box labelled "Sooner" into the refrigerator because they were almost ready. From now on she'll be checking the pears daily and moving them as needed.
We cut up the pears that had been left out because they were almost ready on Monday. Unfortunately, many of them were a bit past by Thursday, so we had to throw away a lot. It took about a dozen pears to fill up the blender with good parts (normally it would take about 3 grocery-store pears). Then we added
We went with friends Paul and Cornelia to watch the Michigan volleyball team make short work of Cleveland State's team. Afterward the four of us went to dinner and then back to our place. We blended the mix up again, then poured it into the ice cream maker and added
Today we canned the first batch of pears. Carol taped the instructions to the kitchen cabinets:
It went pretty well. Here were the steps:
Many pears were a bit overripe, because we were slow to put them in the fridge as they became ready. Especially the ones we left on the counter. Occasionally we found a perfect pear, like this one:
The rest of the pears we picked a week ago were ready this morning, so we resolved to can them tonight. By the time we both got home and then had dinner, it was after 9, and as we write this it's 1 AM.
We followed the same procedure as last time, except we used pint jars. This time we were both here, so we took more pictures. Here they are:
Mark peeling pears:
Carol cutting pears. You can see the bowl of anti-browning solution, full of pears, and also the tupperware container for small pieces:
Pouring the pears into the colander:
Rinsing off the anti-browning solution:
Pouring the rinsed pears into the syrup pot:
Pears in the pot:
Spooning pears into a jar:
Stirring the jar to release bubbles:
Putting on the lid:
Putting the jar into the caddy:
Dropping the caddy into the canner:
And, finally, the finished jars, cooling:
We had some small pieces of pears left over, and several cups of pears in syrup that wouldn't fit in the 7 jars which make up one canner load. So we made chutney, using a recipe from the Blue Ball Book (er, that is, the Ball Blue Book):
Then we canned it just like we did the pears in syrup. We got 3 1/2 pints of chutney. It's too bad we didn't have some smaller jars; a pint of chutney is kind of a lot. Here they are:
We still have a few pears left in the fridge, and some more on the tree. We might be done, though.
Carol can't stand to throw away anything potentially useful. She spooned some of the leftover syrup into ice-cube trays, which went into the freezer, and some more into a jar which went into the fridge. Maybe we will make rum drinks or lemonade with them sometime...
Our pear tree is blooming:
Here's a close-up:
The flowers only lasted a couple of days, then they blew down and covered everything:
The baby pears have started to grow!
We had a violent hailstorm today - we hope it didn't damage the pears too much.
Some pears have begun to fall, and all the critters in the area have been eating them. Here's a sampling of our visitors:
The groundhog is living under our porch, about 20 feet from the pear tree. A sweet deal for him.
We picked the pears today. Jim and Sindi loaned us a ladder this time, so Mark was able to pick a lot of the low-hanging pears without the using the picker.
Jim also had a lighter picker he made out of plywood, which was slightly longer than the old one. So Mark was able to pick almost all the pears on the tree this year - 11 buckets!
We canned. Didn't do a full round of pictures this time, but we were more ambitious in what we tried:
Left to right: 4 pints of chutney, 2 quarts of honey-wine pears, 1 pint and 2 half-pints of pear butter, 3 pints of pear-ginger-lime marmalade (in the back) (one had already been given to Carol's coworker Anne, who loaned us a big pot), and 5 pints of pear mincemeat (in front). Recipes came from the Ball book: "Complete Book of Home Preserving", which is not, in fact, blue. Except for the pear butter - Carol made that up as she went along. Here are the new recipes:
Mark may have left out the zest, because he's had bad experiences with it in the past. In any case, we put it all in a pot, boiled it until it thickened (it didn't get very thick, actually), and then canned it. It's not as thick as store-bought marmalade; probably you hve to add pectin for that. The predominant taste is the lime. We got good reviews from friends who tried it.
Simmer 30 minutes, cook uncovered 15 minutes, until it mounds on a spoon. It made 2 1/2 pies, and was enjoyed by our families at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The pies were very easy - just make a double crust and dump it in, cover it up, bake for a while.
I'm afraid we misplaced this recipe; looks like it's not from the book. Might have involved Gewürtzraminer.
We've never been big on Christmas decorations, but we decided that since we have a pear tree, we really ought to put a partridge in it. We started with this picture, from a Partridge Family website:
(Mark's sisters used to watch the Partridge Family with him on Friday nights when their parents went out to dinner, so he has good associations with the show. Carol has no such fondness, and thinks the show was a bit tacky, and thinks she thought so when it was new, too. But after looking at pictures of real partridges, she decided the PF logo is in fact a decent stylization.)
Mark isolated the big partridge, changed the colors, and printed it on graph paper (each square is 1/5 inch on a side):
Then Carol drew the same image on 1 inch x 1 inch graph paper. She drew red lines 1/2 inch inside and 1/2 inch outside the lines of the image. Mark poked holes along the red lines with a nail (a trick we learned from pumpkin carving), and taped it to a $10 piece of 3/4 inch x 2 ft x 4 ft plywood from the Home Depot:
After marking the wood through the holes, Mark removed the paper and connected the dots:
Then Mark got out the jigsaw and cut along the lines:
Here's the how it looked after the sawing:
Finally, Mark borrowed some black paint from Jim and Sindi, and painted the partridge black:
Mark went back to the Home Depot and bought some "rope lighting". He attached it to the partridge frame using the 9 little plastic clips that came with the rope, plus some twisty-ties.
The rope couldn't make sharp turns at the corners, so we put loops in and covered them with electrical tape so they wouldn't show.
Finally, we hung the partridge on the tree and plugged it in. Here it is with the flash...
... and without.
We had an ice storm which covered everything with a layer of ice. The branches of the pear tree looked like this:
2007 turned out to be an off year for the pear tree; there was no harvest to speak of. 2008, on the other hand, was a bumper crop. We lost count of the buckets, but here's the first batch in the sink:
We spent the month of September canning, it seemed. Here was the final harvest:
We've canned most years since the last time this page was updated, but through laziness haven't documented the process. Last year, however, there was a late frost, and the pear tree took the year off. (Many apple farmers in Michigan lost their crop, too.)
This year, however, the tree went crazy making pears:
We picked over 150 pounds of them:
We canned over several weekends, and when we thought we couldn't peel any more pears, we got help from our friends Sam and Brian:
In the end we had the largest harvest to date:
And we made 9 different concoctions:
It's been a while since we were able to harvest any pears. The tree shows signs of being in distress, and although it makes some baby pears in the spring, few have survived to the fall. This May I did, however, take a nice picture of the tree in bloom.