One of my favorite things to do is canning pears. They are relatively easy to do. My two favorite ways to can them is making Carrot Cake Jam and Pear halves.
With the pear halves, you can create all sorts of goodness. From a pear salad to pear pie, chopping them and adding them to chicken salad, you can get very creative with pear halves.
Last year, we had a difficult time finding any. What remained on my shelves from the previous year was all we had. Even with careful management, we still ran out. And it was a sad day.
This year looked to be just as difficult in finding them. On a Sunday, our friends Johnny and Audi came up to help us with an issue we were having capturing a hive of bees. During the conversation, I was lamenting the fact there were no pears to be found.
Friends to the Rescue
The next Sunday, Audi called to let us know they were headed back our way. A family member had a pear tree. My dear, sweet friends had taken my lament to heart and were bringing us some.
Normally, pears were easy to find. But this year, in order to keep my end of the agreement, I was going to have to buy pears.
Johnny and Audi are kindred souls, in the manner neither of us likes to purchase anything we can grow, produce or barter for ourselves. Knowing this, the gift of pears had many layers.
But I wasn’t thinking of that. I was actually celebrating friends who deeply understood who I was and what I stood for – and honored that.
On Sunday, they walked in with THREE five-gallon buckets of pears. “They’re kinda small,” Johnny mentioned. At first, I didn’t think anything of his comment.
I was overjoyed, and already envisioning shelves lined with delicious goodness.
And then I looked. Really looked. Most of the pears in the bucket would fit in your hand, and your fingers could comfortably close around them.
My mental calculator started clicking. That was a LOT of pears I was looking at. But still, I didn’t care.
But I am strong. I am a homemaker. Homesteading is my way of life. I am the FARM WIFE. This, I can handle.
Pears – Everywhere you Look
I wasn’t able to start on the pears until Wednesday. But that morning, I got up and got busy. The first step was to put some in the sink and get them washed.
I am not going to go step by step through this process. What I am going to do is to give you a few things I learned about canning pears.
Fun (?) Facts about Canning Pears
1. Approximately 137 small to medium pears will fit in a 5-gallon bucket. I got lucky – one of mine held 146. All totaled, there were 408 pears. (And yes, for the sake of this post – which was originally going in a different direction, I counted)
2. An average size sink will hold approximately 96 small to medium pears.
3. It has been determined that since the beginning of time, there was only one perfectly shaped pear. It was the one some artist found and decided to sketch. From that point on, we expect every pear we see to be exactly that shape.
4. Pears are like snowflakes – no two are exactly alike in shape, and rarely do you find one that resembles that first pear. All others are smushed, bent, stretched, and even occasionally square.
Using a ‘PCS’ for Canning Pears
5. It takes a minimum of 10 rotations and a maximum of 20 rotations with a peeler, corer, slicer (heretofore referred to as a PCS) for each pear.
A PCS is definitely a ‘must have’ when canning anything that needs to be peeled. It cuts your time in half, at the very least.
Still, a PCS hasn’t been made that will get all of the peeling off of any pear. Ever. Apples? Probably. Pears? Nope.
6. It takes approximately 20 strokes with a manual peeler, with some pears requiring more like 30 to get all those tiny bits left behind from the PCS.
7. It is wise to only peel your pears with a PCS. If you do all three, you are going to have to figure out how to hold the slices together to get all the peel the PCS missed.
8. You need to stop every 10 to 15 pears to wipe up the juice from around the PCS. No matter how hard you try, you will need to stop every 20 to 30 pears to wipe up the juice off the floor.
9. Beware that using a PCS not only works for peeling pears. It will also peel your finger if you get it too close to the blade and your hand slips from all the juice.
10. Wipe up any blood, rinse off the PCS, get a Band-Aid, and move forward.
11. Manual coring is necessary. I use one that is a metal tube and has a plastic plunger that fits into the tube and with a solid whack will dislodge the core stuck in said tube.
12. After 10 tries with a manual corer, the palm of your hand will be bruised.
13. On the 11th try, grab a hammer and gently tap the corer tube into the pear. Repeat the hammer processor with the plunger to get the core out of the tube.
Had I known a corer such as this one existed, I would have bought it, instead. Trust me – I now have one on order. Apple season will be here before you know it!
14. A melon scoop comes in handy when trying to get the remaining core and seeds from the pear.
Half way through the peeling process:
15. You find you have never been more thankful for an extra-large bowl and the guy who discovered how to make fruit preserver.
16. You begin to feel like you are being watched.
17. You start to wonder about the friends who brought you the pears. How did you meet them? What did you do to offend them to the point they would bring you 3 five-gallon buckets of pears?
18. Thoughts begin to circle. Is bartering really the way to go? Can you divorce friends, without having to spend the money for attorneys? Can I get away with just telling them the jam didn’t turn out?
19. Groaning (aloud) immediately begins when you remember you bartered Carrot Cake Jam in exchange for help with capturing a bee hive. And the fact you can’t lie with a straight face, anyway.
The Canning Process
20. There are four steps to canning pears:
- Place pears in sink and wash.
- Peel, core and slice
You need to read between the lines of each step, as there are so many things you have to do to get from one step to the next.
21. You need to thoroughly clean your kitchen after peeling pears, and before canning them. This helps to remove the sticky juices off of the floor and counters. Be sure to get the peelings off of the ceiling as well.
22. There are roughly 36-1/2 cups of sugar in one 25-pound bag. Each batch of jam requires 6-1/2 cups of sugar.
23. Grating carrots means you will find tiny pieces of orange all over your kitchen for a month – no matter how much or often you clean.
24. It takes approximately 10 hours to make 8 batches of jam. 8 batches makes 67 half-pint jars. This does not include 25 quarts of pear halves. You get to go through all of this on another day to can those.
25. At the 6th hour, you begin to think you are being marched into Pear Jail by giant jars of pear halves.
26. Once you are finished, and the kitchen is finally clean, you fall asleep, only to have nightmares about being pursued by an army of Carrot Cake Jam and giant jars of Pear Half guards.
The Strange Facts of Canning Pears
After putting up 408 small pears over the course of three days, your mind and body really do grow weary. Your once spotless kitchen is now speckled with bits of orange and green.
The tables and countertops are like glue, and the floors are so sticky your shoes make a horrible screaming sound when you walk. The sink is so full of dishes they are threatening on toppling over. Your feet hurt and your back is screaming.
And then the moment comes when the last canning tool is put away. The kitchen smells like comet, Dawn and Mr. Clean. You can walk barefoot across the floor and not be glued into place.
The table is lined with perfect jar ‘soldiers’, filled with beautiful white pear halves, and glistening jam studded with minute bits of orange.
The nightmares start to subside. Your sanity begins to return. And you catch yourself wondering if maybe you need just one or two more buckets of pears – just in case they are scarce again next year.
The Joys of Home Canning
The satisfaction of eating home grown, home preserved goods is like watching the food equivalent of a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
There is something calming and comforting to know that you have the skills to not only grow your own food, but also preserve if for winter stores.
The very idea of feeding your family with healthy food makes your heart swell with contentment. And as anyone who cans will tell you, there is a certain (albeit probably a very secret) sense of pride in the final results.
Yes, it might be a messy job. And it is definitely time consuming. But canning and preserving your own food is a skill that everyone needs to have.
A bowl of home grown, home preserved vegetable soup, accompanied by a loaf of bread fresh from the oven and a side dish of pear salad tastes so much better than any restaurant of grocery store version.
For me, I will continue to can, regardless of the time it takes. I know I will enjoy every bite I take ten times more than if I bought it. And yes, if more pears are offered, I will go through all of this again.
Even if It means I have to apologize to the Phoenix for getting its wings sticky.