Saturday, November 12, 2011

Freezing the Goodness

Are you one of those clever people that clears out the freezer ever summer to make room for the bounty of berries and sweet corn and then in the dead of winter you pull out these amazing, local frozen berries from the freezer and make your smoothies and baked goods taste like heaven while snickering at the rest of us who have to make due with flown in berries or Europe's Best frozen ones (which are actually a product of Chile?)?

This summer, I sooo wanted to freeze a harvest of blueberries and strawberries -- the problem was, we ate them so quickly, and we could never buy enough. There was also the problem of room shortage in my freezer. Yeah, that'll do it. But we did do something to preserve the goodness of summer: we made preserves! No thick, pectin-laden jam that's almost half sugar. Nope, we made preserves that actually tastes like strawberries, rhubarb and blueberries. It was awesome.

So when fall rolled around -- and I loooooooove fall -- I wanted to preserve a bit of that too. I always get excited about the apples that roll around. A new variety showed up in my local market -- the Ambrosia. Totally delicious. But I find that the apples always overshadow the pears -- which symbolize fall as perfectly as apples do. I remember buying spicy pear jam at a market in Guelph and wanting to re-create it at home. Ours was more of a stewed fruit preserve, with less sugar, kicked up with some fresh ginger and lemon juice and of course, all spiced up. It made for a beautiful topping for my weekend oatmeal brunches, a perfect gift for my mommy, and a welcome alternative to go along side peanut butter. When all was said and done, and the two little jars were sealed and stacked in the freezer, I couldn't help trying one right away. But I'm going to save the other one for early July, when I need a reminder that summer will whip right by me, but fall .. fall is likely to linger..

Spiced Pear Preserves
makes about 1.5 cups -- enough to fill three little mason jars; a really small batch, but I'm sure if you doubled or tripled it would be fine -- just adjust the spices and sugar to your taste.

6 Bartlet pears, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of cardamom
a tiny pinch of allspice
juice of half a large lemon
2-3 tablespoons of sugar
splash of water, more if needed

1. Combine all the ingredients in a pot and cook over medium heat, stirring often. When the pears start to break down (about 10 minutes later), turn the heat down to low and let it cook.

2. In the meantime, sterilize your stuff by placing the jars (face up), rims and lids (seal side up) on a cookie tray and in a 200 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

3. By the time your pears are nice and softened and the juices have thickened, your jars will be ready. Carefully spoon the pears in each jar. Seal tightly and turn them upside down on the cookie tray. Let them stand for 20-25 minutes, after which time, they should have sealed.

4. You're ready! Freeze or eat at your leisure! :)

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