August's bounty thrills me to no end. The markets and grocery stores are bursting with Ontario produce and the weather is just cool enough for me to be enthusiastic about standing over a pot of boiling water processing batches of preserves, pickles and canning fresh fruit.
The fact that, amid all the enthusiasm for urban homesteading, canning is having a huge comeback has been nothing but beneficial. It means that all those jars and lids that my mother and I used to have to scour the stores for are now ubiquitous to each of my local grocery and hardware stores.
It also means that, although I've made jam and preserves since I was a child, I'm by no means an expert and now, there's a ton of great information out there on the internet. Sites like Well Preserved and Food in Jars are great places to start. Some of my favourite recipes come from Yvonne Tremblay's book Prizewinning Preserves (also released as The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jams, Jellies and Preserves in the US - guess which name I like better?), in which she gives recipes that have won awards at the Royal Agricultural Fair. If you pick it up, try the pear, ginger and crème de cacoa jam. It's amazing.
I'm lucky that I grew up in a household where my mother canned fruit for winter every year (though she doesn't anymore, much to both my brother's and my chagrin). Going down to the basement and pulling out a mason jar of Ontario peaches on a wintry Sunday in the middle of February was always such a cause for excitement. They would make their way into some kind of dessert - crisp was always a favourite at our house - and for a few brief moments, we'd relive the flavours of summer.
So, to kick off preserves week, I'm going to share a recipe for preserved pears. They're poached and then canned in a gorgeous Riesling and spice syrup. I used small sugar pears, but feel free to use larger ones as you see fit. Just don't make them too big, otherwise you might not get enough of them in your cans!
I can't wait to break into them one stormy January night.
For complete canning instructions and safety, please check out the USDA site or, for more basic instructions, check out Canadian Living's 101 guide.
Riesling Poached Spiced Pears
(from Canadian Living)
makes enough to fill 3 pint jars
4 lbs sugar pears
½ cup fresh lemon juice, divided
9 cups water, divided
3 cups granulated sugar
1½ cups Riesling (keep it in the family and pick up an Ontario wine!)
2 1" x 2" strips lemon rind
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
3 whole cloves
3 whole pods cardamon
1. Prep 3 pint sized mason jars according to canning technique listed above.
1. In a very large, non-reactive bowl, stir together ¼ cup lemon juice with 6 cups water. You'll use this bowl to put your peeled, cored pears into to prevent discoloration.
2. Peel and core pears, placing them in the lemon water. Try not to let the pears sit for more than 20 minutes in the water.
3. Meanwhile, in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, stir together remaining 3 cups water and ¼ cup lemon juice with sugar and Riesling. Once sugar is dissolved, throw in lemon rind, cinnamon, cloves and cardamon. Bring to a boil, and set boil for 5 minutes. Drain pear halves and add to dutch oven. Return to boil and let cook for 5-15 minutes, cooking just until pears are tender. You don't want mushy ones, so keep an eye out.
4. Using a slotted spoon, remove pairs from pot and divide between the 3 prepped mason jars. Remove the lemon rind from the syrup and discard. Divide the cinnamon, cloves and cardamon evenly between the jars.
5. Return syrup to a boil, and boil hard for 10-15 minutes until syrup is reduced to 3 cups. Pour syrup over pears, leaving ½" of headspace between the liquid and the rim of the jar. Use a wet paper towel to remove and syrup on the rim. Failure to do so could result in an improper seal.
6. Seal and process in canner for 10 minutes. Remove, let cool and check that seals have popped. If any don't, place those jars in the fridge and use within a week.
The rest will keep a room temperature (though preferably in a coolish dark space) for a year.