If you have two spare hours this weekend and love pears, make some pear sauce! Observing my farmers’ market I presume now is the best moment to make one: the prices are low and the pears are plentiful. Usually the cheapest pears are slightly under-ripe, ugly (but not bruised!), small ones, and these are perfect for a combination with prunes or spices. Whatever variety you use, the pears shouldn’t be too ripe or too floury in texture. If they are completely unripe, you only need to wait a couple of days and they’ll ripen a bit.
Once preserved, fruit sauce is very versatile. It can be eaten as a dessert, a tea time snack (the best one is cold, kept several hours in the fridge) or used as a pie, tart or another cake filling. The sauce can be done solely with pears, but when you get bored doing the same thing, cinnamon, vanilla or cloves are a nice change. My personal favourite is pears-prunes version, the prunes adding a bit of tartness and character.
Fruit sauce is ridiculously easy to prepare. No need to peel, to cut up finely or to stir continuously and the process can be divided in two parts, which means the first stage can be done one day and the second the following day.
If you don’t have a food mill yet, this is the moment to buy one. It’s usually very cheap (at least in Switzerland and France) and is sold in most kitchenware shops or even supermarkets. Several years ago I bought the cheapest I could find and it’s perfect! When using prunes, a food processor might be handy too, but you can chop the prunes instead.
Preparation: 2 hours (+hot water bath processing)
Special equipment: a food mill (a sieve and a spoon may be used instead, but it takes much longer)
Ingredients (yield: 4 – 5 300ml jars):
2 kg pears
1 kg or more caster sugar (the amount depends on the pears’ sweetness)
20 prunes (stoned)
juice from one big lemon
Cut up the pears roughly in 4 pieces each, discarding only the stems. Put them into a big pan (there should be some free space at the top), add the water, cover and cook on medium heat until they are completely soft and fall into pieces.
Pass them through a food mill (the skins and pips should be left in the fruit mill).
Put back into the pan, add the lemon juice, the sugar and the prunes (chopped if you don’t have a food processor; whole if you have one). Cook uncovered on a medium heat.
After 30 minutes check the consistency. When it has the thickness of a sauce, take off the heat.
Mix in a food processor, put back to cook (omit this step if you’ve chopped the prunes beforehand). Check the sweetness, add more sugar if required and cook 10 more minutes.
/At this point you can either freeze it (after the sauce has cooled down), or keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or process it in the jars, as described below, and store it in your pantry for at least a year!/
Pour the sauce, still hot, into sterilised jars. Cover with lids. Leave the jars to cool.
Place the cool jars into a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking),, cover up with hot – but not boiling- water to the level just below the lid. Bring to boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.
Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the sauce and don’t forget to mark the date.