Recipes for Seckel Pears
Our tree is going crazy and I fear I'll have way more seckel pears than I can ever eat out of hand.
Any recipes or ideas of what to do with them would be greatly appreciated. The squirrels and birds are loving them, but I'm mean and don't want to leave them all out there for the animals.
If I had a big bounty I would definitely preserve some. Peel whole, leaving stems on. Boil gently until tender in a syrup made of 8 cups dark brown sugar, 6 cups white wine vinegar, a 3 or 4" piece of fresh stick cinnamon, and a tablespoon of whole cloves. You could use red wine vinegar, too. Remove pears and pack into glass jars; boil syrup again and pour over, tucking in some of the spice. Seal. These are incredibly versatile. You can serve them with plain cake, including the syrup, or with ham or poultry, in salads, over ice cream, etc.
Years ago I found a lovely recipe in Helen Witty's 1986 book "Fancy Pantry" for seckel pears in vanilla syrup. It's a pain in the behind because you have to peel them, trim stems, poach them in the vanilla syrup, pack in jars, and water process them. I used to give them as Christmas gifts with a little tag suggesting how to use them. I don't think I'm allowed to post the actual recipe, but if you Google, you'll find ideas.
Witty's recipe calls for about 5-1/2 pounds of ripe seckels to yield 3 quarts. I used pints, so I got about 5-6 jars. If you just want to put them up for yourself, use the quarts. Whatever recipe you find to try, make a lot of syrup -- it's easier to toss a little syrup than to run short when filling up your canning jars.
Witty also had a variation in a red wine syrup which I never tried, but it should give you a rosy tint as well as a different flavor.
Since you'll soon have your copy of the book, I'll just paraphrase the recipe here.
Peel the pears. Trim stems to about 1/4 inch. I like to cut out the flower end; Witty doesn't say to do this.
Make a simple syrup, equal parts granulated sugar to water, dissolve the sugar. Depending on how many pears you have, double or triple this syrup amount. Lemon juice as needed, a serious glog of vanilla extract or scraped vanilla beans.
Poach the pears in the syrup, maybe 5 mins, until hot through but not mushy. Pack in hot, sterilized jars. I used pints. She says to pack all stem up, but I did up/down/up/down to get more in. Fill with syrup. Cap with new 2-piece lids. Water process for 25 mins (quarts) or 10 mins ( pints).
Red wine version uses a light red in place of some of the water in the syrup and omits the vanilla.
This is the sort of cutesy thing that I generally don't go for, but I once saw Martha Stewart make really cool skeleton heads out of seckel pears - check it out.
By the way, where are you? I didn't realize they ripened this early.
Make lots of GalleyGirl's rightly famous pear tarts and give them to all of your friends. They'll be happy. Ripe Seckel pears work brilliantly in this.
Galleygirl's Pear Tart
This is the original. Many people feel my oven is too cold, and they feel you should check the doneness after 40 minutes or so. This is my father's all-time favorite dessert. I got it from a chef-friend of mine, named Laurie. She calls it a Pear Tart, but it's more like a dense, rich, buttery cake, made heavy by the pear juice that infuses it. Don't overcook; it's even better the next day!
Laurie's Pear Tart
3 or 4 ripe juicy pears. (doesn't matter what kind, juicy and ripe are KEY!)
Peel, core, and cut into sixths or eighths
Cream 1 stick butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 teasoon vanilla
2 eggs, one at a time...
1 c. flour
1 teasoon baking powder
1/2 t. salt
Add dry ingredients to butter mixture.
Spray an 8" (important) spring form pan with Pam. Spread the batter in it. Now, in a pinwheel pattern, press the slices of pear, peeled side up, into the batter. Cram in as many as you can; since the batter rises and covers the pears, there's no points given for style here(g). The more pears, the moister the cake will be. Sprinkle with handful of sugar before baking. Bake at 350 degrees til a skewer comes out clean, about an hour(Start checking at 40 minutes!). If you have any doubts, UNDERBAKE. This is a whole different animal if it dries out. Then it's just a cake; correctly done, you'll love it. It's just one of those recipes that is greater than the sum of it's parts. really. Ask my Dad. ;)
• If, like me, you only have a 9” spring form pan, make 1-1/2 times the recipe. Works out very nicely.
• Before serving the cake, spank on a nice sprinkling of powedered sugar.