year in late September or early October, if Mother Nature allows, the Trews "put
up pear preserves." As long as I can remember this annual routine has taken place.
This year two sons and wives joined us around the big kitchen table, knives and
pans at ready and all peeled and sliced pears for hours. We stayed focused and
serious except when we were laughing.
Our family "get-togethers" tend
to get a little silly after a while, and the monotony of peeling pears doesn't
help. Since pears are slick and hard to hold, shrapnel flies in all directions.
Basically, to the unlearned, making pear preserves includes peeling the
fruit, cutting out all bad places and bruises. Next, slice the meat into small
slivers eliminating the core.
The slices are then soaked in a pan for six
to eight hours with two parts pears to one part sugar. Last, cook until "they
look just right" turning a light brown and becoming sort of clear. Then place
in sterilized jars with lids. After cooling the pears contract and the lid pops
in, signaling the jar is sealed.
My wife, Ruth, says, "the most satisfying
sound in a country woman's life is when after a hard day's work canning, the lids
start to pop and the count comes out right."
The best pears for preserves
are the old, hard, green fruit that came to this country when the WPA began planting
shelter-belts, or so I have been told. These rows of trees not only helped prevent
erosion they provided fresh fruit in season and bodarc posts for building fences.
Our pear trees are 50-plus years old and if we had kept records, I'd wager they
produced fruit about every other year with losses occurring mostly from late freezes.
It's best to always make twice as many preserves as needed for one year just to
be safe and not run out in a non-bearing year.
Although we eat a lot of
preserves ourselves, we give many jars away to friends when we go to visit. In
fact, friend Ben Street at Wimberly holds the door when we arrive saying, "the
password to enter is a jar of pear preserves." So, putting up pears is worth the
work for many reasons.
The main reason for making preserves is the ecstasy
of spooning out a helping of the golden red slivers, floating in a thick, clear
pear honey, onto a pair of beautiful biscuits opened in half, with melted butter
floating on top. (By the way, using "whomp biscuits" is legal.)
take a sip of hot coffee to rinse the taste buds then place a fork full of biscuit
and pear preserves on the tongue, close your mouth and chew slowly. By the time
the pair of biscuits disappears another half biscuit is required to mop up the
left-over pear honey. This leaves you with a half biscuit which requires more
preserves in order to leave a clean plate, like your mother always insisted. Real
pear preserve connoisseurs can extend this problem till the biscuits run out.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" November 19, 2008 Column
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