We are back from the Interweb-less wilds of Maine and rural New Hampshire and there is much to share: wild Maine blueberries, tart-sweet Concord grapes, chocolate birthday cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting and boozy pear sauce filling and grilling chicken & vegetables over a wood fire by headlamp. But first, a simple, and simply delicious, pear syrup.
When I made the pear butter with white wine and fennel a couple of weeks ago, I was so captivated by the fragrance of the reduced pear syrup, flavored simply with fennel and a little lemon juice, that I was reluctant to add the pear pulp and continue with the butter recipe. I did, and I’m glad, as the butter turned out to be fabulous, but I decided to take the last of the teeny, tiny, Julia pear-picking excursion D’Anjou pears and make a syrup with the pear juice, then a dessert sauce with the pulp. This recipe is as simple as can be, once you obtain the pear juice; add a little sugar, a little fennel, a touch of lemon juice and boil until it looks thick enough for you. Voila – a delicious, nutrious and inexpensive alternative to maple syrup over pancakes, a perk-me-up dollop for a touch of the exotic in your daily yogurt, a wonderful glaze for meat or fish and a way to turn a basic pound cake into something really special. The combination of pear & fennel is magical and this is one of those recipes that tastes like more than the sum of its parts; complex and gourmet while being a downhome, backyard fruit preserve. Excuse me while I go make some pancakes.
Pear Syrup with Fennel
- juice from 6 and 1/2 lbs pears (about 6 – 7 cups juice; I used D’Anjou pears)
- 1 cup raw sugar (organic turbinado)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed, tied in a spice bag or mesh tea infuser
- pinch sea salt
- I juiced the pears by halving or quartering stemmed pears (with cores & peel intact), covering with water in a large stockpot, simmering for about 1 hour, pushing through a food mill, then straining through a jelly bag. (Yes, yes, I know; I should buy a juicer.) I stored juice and pulp separately and made the syrup the following day. Reserve the pulp for another recipe (Boozy Pear Sauce to follow!)
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Add pear and lemon juice, sugar, fennel and salt to a large, wide-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until juice is reduced by at least half and is thick and syrupy (about 20 minutes for me).
- Ladle hot syrup into hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 3 – 4 cups of thick syrup.
- You could eliminate the sugar entirely from this recipe, or replace with honey or maple syrup; I used a small amount of sugar to aid in shelf-life (sugar acts as a preservative) and to help the syrup to thicken slightly and take the edge of a slight bitter flavor from some of the more underripe pears. I decided against honey or maple syrup as I wanted a pure pear flavor with just the hint of fennel.
- Lemon juice in this instance gives a bit of an acid boost, which, along with the pinch of salt, acts to brighten up the pear flavor. The added acid also helps in preservation and shelf-life. Some pears skirt the edge of the safely-acidic-zone (pH of 4.6) so, while pears are generally considered safely acidic to water-bath can on their own, I would keep it in, especially if you cut out the sugar.
- Pears & fennel are magical (I have Julia to thank for the combo). Even if fennel is not your favorite – please, try this. You may become a convert.
Canned, store at cool room temperature, in the dark, for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, use within 1 month.
Late summer to early Fall. Often pears are available in farmer’s markets over the winter.