Pear Syrup with Fennel

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.

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Pear Syrup with Fennel

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

METHODS

  1. 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!)
  2. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

OPTIONS

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

STORE

Canned, store at cool room temperature, in the dark, for up to 1 year.  Refrigerated, use within 1 month.

SEASON

Late summer to early Fall. Often pears are available in farmer’s markets over the winter.

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8 comments

  1. I love the sound of this syrup so much. I have lots of pears ripening in my house right now so may well try this fab recipe. Presumably if I juice the pears using a macerating juicer rather than extract the juice in a pan with added water, as you have, it would not need to be reduced and cooked down as long? Anyhow, I’ve time to think about it as the pears will be another week or two before ripe and juicy.

  2. Hi Gloria,

    Yes, you are probably right; I had to add more water than I wanted to these pears, as they took a long time to soften (and wouldn’t soften at all until submerged). Either way, this is worth a try: surprisingly delicious and quite easy.

  3. Diane

    The pear syrup sounds just perfect. My pears are ready to use today or tomorrow. I’m curious about the dessert sauce you made with the pulp. Is it that boozy sauce you referred to further up in the post?

  4. Yes – Boozy Pear Sauce recipe will be up tomorrow. Basically, just add a lot of booze (I used about 1.75 cups of 3 different liqueurs) to the pear pulp; bring to boil, add sugar if you like, then can! 🙂

  5. Diane

    Thanks Kaela. I was planning to store the pulp in the fridge for a day or so in case you were planning to post about the Pear Sauce. Barring that, I’d just wing it! You have so many good ideas and flavor pairings. Thanks for posting so often, so we can all keep up with what’s in season.

  6. sheree

    just a question. I have pear juice (some home canned and some store bought), would that work for this recipe as well or no? Its well passed pear season here and all my pears are canned already but I was thinking this would be a nice Christmas gift to make…….

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