Caramelized Pear Jam with Vanilla Bean

Burnt” is such an ugly word. “Caramelized” is so much prettier, inspiring visions of caramel apples, gooey caramel melting into a sundae, or caramel candies festooned with America’s favorite pork product. Let’s face it, there is a fine line between “caramelized” and “burnt” and it is mostly one of taste: does it taste good (caramelized) or bad (burnt)?  In fact, the very definition of ‘caramel’ can be burnt sugar (although most do not put it quite so crassly). So why the vocabulary lesson for your Monday morning?  Well, it’s all a long-winded way of saying: I burnt the jam and I liked it.

The plan for this jam was a straight-up version of D’Anjou pear with vanilla bean, right out of Mes Confitures, with of course, a drastic reduction in the sugar. Despite all of my bitching about Mme. Ferber’s seminal ode to sugar (emphasis on the sugar) + fruit, I am in love with the method, which not only produces a beautiful syrup + whole fruit preserve, but also allows me to procrastinate for a few days if need be (not that I ever do that). But a problem I find is that, in vastly reducing the sugar:fruit ratio in these jams, I often do not have the right amount of liquid to produce syrup for all the fruit.  I’ve countered that in the past by adding wine, or apple pectin stock, or other liquids, but for this jam, I just wanted pure pear flavor, enhanced only by vanilla bean. Another problem with this particular batch? I just wasn’t paying attention. I had the jam bubbling away on the stove, in my spanky new Le Creuset, while I was making labels on the computer for yet another pear preserve. Luckily I smelled the jam starting to caramelize just as I heard the fruit starting to stick and jumped up from my desk to stir.  I thought the jam might be ruined, but when I reduced the heat and tasted it, I found it was delicious. I decided to raise the heat again, give it a stir, and let it caramelize a bit more. And the moral of the story? Some kitchen accidents are happy ones. Take advantage of vocabulary, name it something spectacular, and when people ask, say confidently “I meant to do that.”

Adapted from Pear with Vanilla in Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber


Caramelized Pear Jam with Vanilla Bean


  • 3 lbs pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced to 1/2-inch pieces (I used D’Anjou)
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise (I used Mexican beans)


  1. Day 1. Add sliced pears, lemon juice, sugar and vanilla beans to a medium stockpot (4-quart) or Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Transfer mixture to a heat-safe bowl, cover, and store refrigerated overnight.
  2. Day 2. Prepare  canner, jars and lids.
  3. Transfer pear mixture to a colander suspended over a large bowl to strain fruit from juice. Add juice to a wide, heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add vanilla beans. Continue to boil until juice reduces, thickens and begins to bubble thickly (about 214 degrees F on an instant thermometer). Remove vanilla beans and set aside.
  4. Add  pears to juice and return to a boil. Cook at a lively boil, over medium-high heat, until liquid thickens, pears soften and threaten to stick to the pan.  To caramelize pears, reduce heat to medium and allow to cook, without stirring, until just browned (you will smell the pears browning); stir and ‘caramelize’ once again, then remove from heat, ladle into hot, sterilized jars and process in a  boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  If you like, you may snip the used vanilla beans into segments and add one segment to each jar before sealing.

Yields about 4 and 1/2 cups.


  1. To caramelize pears (on purpose): I admit I ‘caramelized’ my pears by accident, while not attending to the pears and letting the liquid reduce too much. However, the delicous result could be reproduced without the happy kitchen accident. Try this method: while the pear juice is reducing in a Dutch oven, lightly caramelize the fruit, in batches if necessary, in a large, dry skillet over medium to medium-low heat, turning only once to brown both sides.  Add caramelized pears to juice once juice is reduced & syrupy, then continue with the recipe.
  2. You may safely add more sugar to the recipe: the original recipe calls for 3 and 3/4 cups sugar to 2 and 1/4 lbs fruit. Adding another 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar might be beneficial in increasing the syrup:fruit ratio.
  3. Pears are not quite as acidic as apples, nor do they contain quite as much pectin, so the addition of lemon juice here helps with a boost of acidity for both safety and set. As pears are, however, safely acidic for water bath canning, bottled lemon juice is not required.


Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, use within 1 month.


Late summer to early Fall.


  1. Love this. Quick question: Did you have any trouble removing the over-caramelized pear bits from the bottom of your Le Creuset? I just flat out burnt some tomatoes I was canning for sauce this weekend, and the blackened remains don’t seem to want to budge. Any ideas?

  2. Hi Cat,

    I think I caught it just in time (and in truth, at the time I was more worried about the Le Creuset than the jam!) so nothing really stuck to the bottom.

    I’ve heard good things about both the Le Creuset and the Bon Ami non-scratch cleansers for getting out stubborn stains, but I haven’t tried either yet. One thing my husband always does for burnt-on sugar is to bring a few inches of water to boil in the pan, allow it to boil for 15 minutes or so, then try to scrub the stain again (if it remains – old culinary school trick). You could also try an overnight soak in white vinegar or a vinegar/water mix; I find that works for baked-on stuff in a porcelin baking dish.

    Anyone else out there have good tips for getting stubborn stains off of Le Creuset?

  3. JohnV

    I’ve had the same problem and wrote them. Below is their response which worked pretty well. They also make a gentle enzyme cleaner which is decent for normal conditions.

    Thank you for your loyalty to Le Creuset. For cleaning we would recommend using a laundry detergent such as tide or one that has an enzyme in it. Take one part detergent and three parts water to fill the interior of the vessel. Allow this to boil for about 5-7 minutes. Afterwards allow to the vessel to cool and proceed with cleaning with your dish detergent. If needed, you may use a nylon or plastic type of scrubby to assist. Once your item has been cleaned, take some white vinegar using a soft cloth or papertowel. Rub the vinegar on the enamel, this is used to return some of the sheen back to the glaze. The longer you allow the vinegar to remain on the enamel the more of the sheen it will bring. Your item can be stored away with the vinegar on it until next use. When ready to use, wash and dry.
    Le Creuset Consumer Services

  4. soccerjude

    Usually, when I have burned on stuff in Le Creuset, I just soak it in hot water and dish soap overnight, then go at it with a scrub pad and some serious elbow grease. That’s always done the trick for me!

  5. Bonnie

    This looks fabulous…I am going to buy some pears this weekend.
    This would make wonderful gifts for Christmas baskets, Thank you for the recipe.

  6. can i just say it?


    about ms ferber;

    i told you!


    (and also i am totally amazed about the good stuff you continuously crank out of your kitchen! …you’re beginning to be smitten local kitchen to me.)

  7. Yeah, yeah, yeah… I’ll still never understand the logic that creates the ideal method for showcasing gorgeous, peak-of-season fruit… and then buries it under 2 kg of sugar. 😉

    (but THANK you – comparisons to smitten are high compliments indeed!)


  8. First of all, that recipe sounds divine! Second, I have come to rely on your philosophy a bit too much lately. To the point where I won’t even tell people what I’m planning to make in advance, in case something doesn’t come out and I have to “adjust”. The whole time though, once i’m at the end, I refuse to admit that anything went wrong. I love the “I meant to do that” philosophy 😀

  9. Really beautiful! Makes me want to go out and get more pears. Sorta. ; ) I talked to someone who was making nectarine jam and it turned into nectarine candy. He *really* forgot about it!
    I just let my Creuset sit and soak. It always cleans up real nice!

  10. Lisa

    Where did you find the lovely french canning jars?! All of the ones I found online say they are not air tight and not recommended for actual “canning”. Thanks so much.

  11. Hi Lisa,

    These particular jars were a local find in an antique shop in Ridgefield, CT; they are Canadian jars of an Italian style, obtained from an estate sale. I snagged all 32 of them, but then had to search high and low for a gasket that would fit.

    Fido makes a very similar jar:

    But they can be hard to find at a reasonable price. The Container Store is actually a good source for Fido and Le Parfait canning jars, at pretty reasonable prices; they don’t often show up online, but if you have a store near you, it is worth making a trip. The one near me also sells replacement gaskets.

    I should point out that the USDA does not recommend this type of jar and ONLY recommends the two-piece lid & band Ball style Mason jar. However, if you are an experienced canner and are comfortable judging a seal for this type of jar, I think they are worth searching out. No lids or bands to replace, no BPA in the lid, and oh-so-pretty!

  12. Brooke - in Oregon

    I made this and it was a bit hit, I added more cooked pears because it was a bit to sweet for me which is sort of funny cause I like sweet! 🙂 It is soooo good over vanilla ice cream. I had a big big box of REALLY ripe pears given to me (Yippee) I drained off a lot of the juice and made this

    Only used pear instead of apple, SUPER yummy, but I did add more Habanero to heat it up a bit more.

    Thanks again for a fabulous recipe that went into the “recipes we LOVE” file and added a nice flavor to the Christmas baskets!

  13. sheree

    I am sooo glad the recipe is on here. The jar you sent me for the pay-it-forward 2011 is almost gone and I am addicted to it! My parents always give me tons of pears from their tree and I can’t wait to make this. I am going to make a ton of it!

  14. I got a peck of local Red Bartlett pears yesterday and made this this morning. I had a partial jar that I did not process. And my youngest nephew who prefers his jams plain smelled this one and said to make more. And this was without tasting it. He wants me to do his peach the same way meaning with vanilla.

    I am going to d two more batches since I have enough pears to do so. It is heavenly!

    And to clean my Le Crueset, I do the soak method first. Than if more help is needed, I use a scrubbie sponge designed for china. Than and only than do I go for something like Bon Ami. With all of the jam making lately, I need to do a good scrub on it soon. Blackberries and plum stain. But I am thinking Le Cruet has soe new colors coming out soon …….

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  16. thank you for this recipe! i made this today …and the house smells heavenly! And yes, it tastes even better. I used a Le Creuset ..and had not problems cleaning it. And I mixed a variety of pears – bosc, bartlett and d’ anjou.

  17. Amy

    Do you really not use any pectin? I’m guessing the jam is adequately thickened by reduction? I’m dying to try this but would hate to waste a batch with a poor set.

    • Very few of the Ferber-style preserves use added pectin; they rely on the maceration period to draw out the natural pectin in the fruit, and the set is a “preserve”, i.e., loosely set syrup with suspended fruit. Of course, I usually keep a bit of citrus or apple pectin at hand, in case I feel the preserve is cooking too long without reaching an acceptable set; sometimes even a tablespoon or two will do it.

    • Hi Michaela,

      It’s safe, from a water-bath canning standpoint, but you will have a really hard time achieving a jam-like set with less sugar. The ratio of 12 oz sugar to 3 lbs fruit is already very low (typical is 1:1), and, with a Ferber-style preserve, you need a certain amount of sugar to bring out the juice in the pears, or you won’t have enough syrup to suspend your fruit.

      If you’d like to lower or eliminate refined sugar, I suggest replacing the sugar with one can of frozen apple juice concentrate. The apple will provide some sweetness, but also liquid for making the preserve and additional pectin to help the set. I can’t guarantee how it will turn out, but I’ve used this method before and it works, with a little tweaking.

  18. Lisa

    Amazong!! I just made this with my favorite local Moonglow Pears…I only got 3 cups worth, so it will only go to “jam-worthy” friends. I’ll give a jar to the farmer, who lost about 90% of his apple & pear crop this past year. Already planning on making another batch. I really love the process you use, and how the fruit isn’t buried under sugar.

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  20. Lisa B

    This turn out syrupy for me and not jam-like? Still delish but I am trying another batch and would like some input first. Thanks.

    • Hi Lisa,

      This was a very loose-set preserve, more of a fruit-in-thick-syrup than a true, still jam. Pears are relatively low in pectin and this is a quite low-sugar preserve, so it will not set-up like a true jam unless you do one (or more of the following): add some pectin – you could add homemade apple pectin, or replace one of the pears with a fresh apple, or add some apple juice or cider to the maceration step; increase the lemon juice – acidity will often help bump up the set, so perhaps your lemon was not as large as mine; use slightly under-ripe pears, which have a higher pectin content; increase the amount of sugar, which will help with the set.

      You may find, that over the course of a few weeks, your syrupy jam from the first batch will set up as it sits on the shelves. That can sometimes happen when the preserve is close, but not quite at, the set-point when you canned it.

      Hope that helps,

  21. Laura

    Could I substitute honey for all or part of the sugar? Or will it not draw enough liquid from the fruit? I just really like the pear and honey combo.

  22. Pingback: 8 Delightful Jam Recipes Made from Fall Fruits

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