I was given a whole bunch of spotty heirloom pears and after making several rounds of pear sauce, I decided to go get some more pears and make pickles the next day. Logical, right? Well, I’m glad anyway. They’re so neat and full of flavor.
Both recipes called for Seckel pears, because they are tiny and beautiful and don’t have to be cut up. I used Bartletts, because the Seckels were nowhere to be had. I didn’t peel the pears in the second recipe, I just cored and quartered them.
The recipe for pears in spiced wine came from Canning For A New Generation, which is becoming my very favorite of a growing stack of preserving books. The recipes always taste good, and they are written in a dependably similar way that lets me understand the bigger picture. I have learned to have an extra jar on hand when making pickles in case I end up with extra, and to keep the brine ingredients out in case I have to make more of that.
I have deviated from the recipe a few different ways here. I’m including information for both ways. I can’t advise you on whether you should follow the recipe or not. While I’m very pleased with my short-term results, I don’t know the long-term effects on coloring, flavor, etc.
Spiced Pears with Red Wine (adapted from Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation)
half a lemon, juiced
3 1/2 lbs of pears (Seckels, Bartletts, you know, whatever you’ve got as long as it’s in good shape.)
4 slices peeled fresh ginger (I used a bit of the Ginger People minced ginger. I LOVE this stuff.)
4 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp whole cloves
2 tsp whole allspice
1 1/2 C sugar
2 1/4 C distilled white vinegar
1 C red wine
Get the water bath canner going. Sterilize the pint jars and keep them warm (I usually just wash them and have them in the water bath canner until I need them). You can heat your lids by storing them in a little bowl and pouring some water from the canner on them when it’s time to fill the jars, or you can keep them in a little saucepan of water on low heat on a back eye. I’ve come to prefer the latter method because they’re out of the way until you need them.
Peel and core the pears. Larger pears (like the Bartletts I used) need to be halved or quartered. The recipe recommends putting them in lemon water here to keep them from discoloring. I didn’t really do this step.
(The recipe also advises to fill cheese cloth bags or loose leaf tea bags with the ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice, but I divided the whole spices among the jars so they would be canned in with the pears as in the pickled pear recipe below. I would advise, after having given them time to rest, that you listen to the author on this one. The spices look lovely in the jar, but although they balance the flavors in the pickled pear recipe below perfectly by being added in, they are super overwhelming in this pear pickle.)
In a non-reactive pot combine vinegar, sugar, and wine with 1 cup of water. Toss in the spice bag and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Once you’ve reached a boil and the sugar has completely dissolved, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
When you get the brine to a simmer, drain the lemon water off the pears and pack them tightly into jars, leaving an inch of headspace. Ladle the hot brine into the jars, leaving 1/2″ of headspace. Run a plastic or wooden utensil (I use a chopstick) around the inside of the jars to release any trapped air. Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel, top with the heated lids, and screw the bands on fingertip tight.* Bring them to a boil in the canner and process for 15 minutes (adjusting for altitude as necessary depending on where you live.) When they come out, leave them on a dishtowel on the counter for at least 12 hours (while hovering and listening for a ping). If the lids sealed (they don’t pop up when you push on them) you can store them on a shelf somewhere. If you have one that doesn’t, stick it in the fridge and eat it soon.
The pickled pears pictured below (say that 5x fast!) are from Marisa McClellan of Food In Jars in a guest post for the In a Pickle column on Serious Eats.