I have a generous Asian pear tree that each year delivers me several bushels of fruit. My go to recipes to preserve are poached, jammed, dried and sauced but I love to play with spices and flavor combinations. Last year the new jam flavors were red wine, madras curry, tandoori and rosemary. Rosemary was the all around winner, the madras curry came in close second and the red wine was a great way to use remaining wine sauce from my poached pear recipe. I also make a vanilla pear spread by swirling in vanilla bean paste.
I make a large batch of the basic pear jam/spread and then divide it out into smaller portions in either a bowl or sauce pan if you need to keep warm. Now you can add the spice or flavors to taste, starting with a small amount (maybe a teaspoon per four cups) and adding more as needed based on taste. I use the small half-pint jars which are great for gifting. For the rosemary pear, I used sprigs, put them in the sauce whole and let it simmer for a while to to infuse flavors (taste after a while). I then remove the full sprigs, spoon jam into jars and placed some diced rosemary needles on the top before finishing the canning process.
I am not a typically bread pudding fan, however, I love french toast and also creating food that uses up items from my ‘well-stock’ larder. I freeze baguettes to use soups, make bread crumbs (and now bread pudding). I make up up big batches of french toast to serve (breakfast for dinner club!) and freeze for easy later meals (pop in toaster or microwave). Today’s bread pudding is slightly inspired by smittenkitchen (who isn’t!) but has less sugar, more spice, more custard and combines the ingredients I had on hand. Noteable – dry asian pear slices – o one should make these just for this recipe. Substitute chopped fresh pears, apples, raisens, dry cranberries etc. Same goes for french toast, do not make it to use in this recipe, rather make it and enjoy it, freeze some and later throw it together to make bread pudding.
Also note that it appears that I burnt the top a bit. Totally meant to do that, we like a little char in our house aaaand I should move my rack down lower. Saved me a trip under the broiler though. 🙂
Ingredients to make one 9 x 13 pan or 8-10 ramekins:
about a pound of bread, slightly stale is ok, maybe trim off any really tough parts but I leave the crusts on, include some left over french toast or waffles as part
4 cups of whole milk or do 1 cup cream and 3 cup what ever % milk you have
1-2 cups of fruit, sliced or diced or already small
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (give or take) pure maple syrup
Defrost if necessary and cube bread into about 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes. Remove any really tough parts.
If bread is fresh, maybe toast on a cookie sheet for a few minutes in your preheated, 350 F oven.
Prep your baking dish or dishes. Ramekins, small wide mouth jars or larger baking pans are perfect. Coat them well with butter and if so included a square of parchment paper.
Chop, if necessary the fruit, and toss with bread in a large bowl, bag or on cookie sheet. Here there is so much flexibility in how much fruit you add, you could even just omit. Ideas: soak raisins in water or rum/orange liqeuor, dice an apple, mix in cranberries or currants, dried apricots etc etc. Recipe for my dried asian pears.
Beat really well the eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and spices in a mixing bowl.
One the stove using a medium sauce heat up the milk/cream and maple syrup until warm to the touch. No need to scald for science reasons but you want to avoid burning or uneven over heating, so stir a little bit.
Slowly add in the warmed milk mixture to the eggs, beating at the same time. Give a few scraps to mix up anything from the bottom.
Fill baking dish with bread and fruit mixture. Then pour or ladle in the egg/milk custard mixture. Make sure everything gets coated in the custard. You could top with nuts if you like.
Place on a cookie sheet (maybe line with foil in case any bubbling over) and bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and let it set on cooling rack for another 10 minutes or so to set up a bit more.
Enjoy! Serve warm with ice cream or whip cream if you dare. If you are a Buddy the Elf fan, more maple syrup too!
Summer keeps rolling along, as does my rhubarb plant. While the pears are not quite ripe yet, I did need to make room in my freezer and had a bag of Asian pears from last season that I quickly froze. Toss in some Washington blueberries, zest and cinnamon and you have yourself a tasty pie. This recipe makes enough for two full size pies but I only had one full crust, so I obtained another package of ready made dough (because I don’t make crust, it disappoints me) and made up some ugly mini open faced pies. Ugly mini pies taste good! Rustic yum! You could also freeze the other portion of filling for another time or make a quick crisp with it.
Use whatever berry you had handy: black, rasp or straw would all pair quite nicely. Fresh or frozen. I used Asian pears as that is what grows in my yard and I like their crunch but any other pear would be just fine. Other options might include trying apple or adding ginger. This pie is not runny and the rhubarb is soft and just the right amount of tart. The pears are mellow and smooth.
Pie crust: enough for two full size pie bottoms and tops (3-4)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, not too too tightly packed
1 1/4 pound of rhubarb sliced about 1/4 to 3/8 inch
4-5 cups pears, pealed, cored, sliced and diced
2 1/2 cups blueberries
3/4 cup flour
Orange zest from one orange
2 tablespoon juice squeezed from orange
Lemon zest from a small lemon (optional)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
A spoon full or two of milk for crust to help brown and extra sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle
Slice up rhubarb and toss with the sugars to start macerating.
Zest the orange and lemon and toss with rhubarb and sugar.
Peal, core, slice and dice the pears. Toss in with rhubarb and sugar.
Let this sit if you can for a while to macerate. Turn on the oven to 425 F to preheat.
Add the berries, cinnamon and flour. Stir all together until mixed.
Scoop filling into the prepared pie crust. Remember there is enough filling for two pies!
UNLESS you are using the Breville Pie Maker or doing a hand pie. For this option, you need to cook the filling first. Put in a saucepan on the store and turn on the heat. Stir and bring to a boil, keep stirring. The filling should start to thicken and rhubarb will get a little bit softer.
For the full size pie, once filling is in, add the top crust, either a full covering with slits or lattice.
Brush crust with milk, sprinkle with sugar. Egg wash is also an option.
Place pie pans on a cookie sheet and then into the oven to bake for 40 to 60 minutes depending. You want to the filling to be bubbling and crust to be nice and brown but not burnt.
When done baking, let the pie cool a while before serving with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
For the Breville mini pie option, I did not have puff pastry on hand so these pies were made open faced. I did place a piece of tin foil over them once in the pie maker to minimize the mess on the top to clean up. Worked marginally well.
Last year I finally broke down and bought a food dehydrator after years of concern that it would be just another appliance taking up space. Granted it isn’t running 365, but when it is time to harvest fruit or there is a great sale at the market, my Nesco Snack Master Pro (amazon affiliate) becomes indispensable. I also found myself up to my eyebrows in jam and dehydrating offers another alternative to preserving food.
Someday I might be an “Excalibur” level dehydrator but after lots of research and polling the audiences, I settled on the Snackmaster. Besides, it is fun to say snackmaster and easy to add trays, clean and adjust heat setting.
For this recipe, I used crisp sweet Asian pears because that it what grows in my back yard, but any pear would do and I would venture to say that the curry and cinnamon and a little sugar would work on apples and bananas and other fruits. I like the sneaky subtle spice of the curry with the classic cinnamon. I use just a tiny bit of sugar but you could absolutely just skip that part and have it be plain fruit. Some people will so a quick swipe through some lemon water to help prevent browning but it doesn’t bother me (and seems to be minimal), the cinnamon hides it and it adds another step.
Dried Asian Pears with Curry and Cinnamon
Ingredients: Ground cinnamon, granulated sugar and Madras curry powder (I like sun brand)
I don’t measure anything but mix together maybe a tablespoon of sugar with a lot of cinnamon (3 teaspoons? more?). This made enough for two full Snackmaster loads of pears. I put the curry on separately, for no good reason, other than trying to keep it really light.
Pear preparation: Wash, dry and you can peel them if you like. I usually leave it on but Asian pear peels can sometime ‘russet’ or get thicker and in that case I peel off part of it. Now you can cut in half and scoop out the core with a melon baller, and slice into thin wedges or slices, even leave the stem on for decoration if you like. This year I sliced horizontally, sometimes leaving the core in (removing seeds) and other times i cut it out, especially if it felt tougher.
Layer the fruit into dehydrator. Sprinkle on curry powder and then cinnamon sugar. I only put it on one side, and it leaves more than enough flavor. you could also dip the slices in the spice mix and then place on trays.
How think you slice the fruit determine the drying time. I aim for a scant 1/4 inch, closer to an eighth but my knife skills are amateur and I was too lazy to get the mandolin out. Turn on your dehydrator, about 135F for 8-12 hours. Once dried appropriately let cool and then store in a zip lock, glass jar, food saver or just eat them right away. They are a health snack, good in oatmeal or baked into cookies.
Bonus! Your house will smell like pear pie, fall and hugs. Yay!
Inspired by a NY Times posting. You can follow their recipe or make up the poached pears, then use the remaining wine sauce with cinnamon, add about two tablespoons powdered pectin for every 2 cups of liquid, splash of lemon juice (for good canning luck) and some herbs. Taste and see if sweet enough for you but in my expereince after the pears lolled around in the liquid there was additional sweetness. For herbal notes, I used rosemary (add a couple 3-5 inch sprigs and remove when done before pouring in jars), as that is what I had on hand fresh, but sage or thyme would be delightful too. I do plan on making champagne and white wine versions and maybe brighten up with basil or mint. Process in a hot water bath using your best canning technique for 10 minutes!
I love this spread on a fine cracker with a sharp white cheddar or other stout cheese. I think it will also make an appearance on meat, with a charcuterie plate and for sure the thanksgiving table. Use small jars as a little bit will go a long way
Many of you have heard my rant before about Asian desserts and also know that I love old school cookbooks and recipes. Madame Wong’s Long-Life Chinese Cookbook (1977) is a more recent edition to my cookshelf and happens to have one of the shortest dessert chapters ever. Featured alongside recipes for Almond Delight (extract flavored gelatin), Eight Precious Pudding (good luck for sure), Peking Wall (dried fruit and nuts stacked like a wall) and Red-in-Snow Mousse (sounds communist and involves crab apples) is Steamed Pears.
Unassuming, of Peking Tradition, two ingredients, no gelatin and a serving of Chinese wisdom. This turned out tasty, perfect fall but does need (like so many things) whipping cream or vanilla ice cream dolloped alongside.
Pears are a popular Chinese dessert. They are good for colds and coughs and are soothing to the throat. This fruit is said to stop aging and keep you young. It is advisable for those with high blood pressure to eat pears often.
6 tablespoons honey
Cut 1-2 inches from the top of each pear. Reserve tops for lids. Core each pear but do not make a hole in the bottom. I used my trusty melon baller. Then fill the pears with honey. I also sprinkled just a pinch of cinnamon on the top of the pear before replacing the lid. Place pears upright on a plate. Place the plate on a rack in a bottom or steamer. Steam covered for 30 minutes. Serve hot. Could prepare up to the point of steaming in advance.
These were quite tasty. For pears, since I canned up all my Asian pears (and they would probably be too watery and crisp for this), I used Bosc and a random Velveteen pear.
Wondering what the heck the other desserts are? Me too. I haven’t made them yet (or maybe ever) but happily share the recipes below. If you make them let me know.
Almond Delight –You must be serene when you cook Chinese.
Eight Precious Pudding – This is a famous traditional banquet dessert. Usually it contains eight kinds of dried candied fruits that represent eight precious stones. The combination of sweet rice and bean paste gives it an exquisite taste. [beans are not dessert]
Red Bean Paste Recipe
Peking Wall – This wall is a thing of beauty, not only to see but to taste, as well. [I think it might actually be fun to build and you would learn a cool new skill to make threads with chopsticks].
Red-in-Snow Mousse – This is a Western dessert, turned Chinese with crab apple sauce by the proprietor of Sun Ya restaurant in Shanghai 50 years ago. Red is the color that gladdens the heart of ant Oriental, it has become a most popular dessert. [as mentioned, sounds a wee bit communist and likely the represents two of the few crab apple recipes out there.] Involves a Jell-O mold so you now its legit.
Red Bean Paste
So who is Madame Wong? If alive today, she be 108 years old. (she was in her 70s when her book was published). Earned legend status teaching at UCLA in Extension classes. Her mantra was “Be optimistic, ignore bad things, love people, think of others more, and of course, eat well-balanced meals.” Favorite foods: Bean curd and bok choy. Was friends with Barbara Streisand. Madame Wong passed away in 2008 (age 103), and truly lived a long life.
Words of Wisdom from Madame Wong – No medicine can cure stupidity.
I have been blessed with a reliable and prolific Asian pear tree in my back yard (unlike my zucchini plants). This was another bumper crop weighing in around 30 pounds, not counting the “downer fruit” that I gave to the chickens. As such, I have a two goto recipes to put away these delicious pears for the months ahead. There is no reason these couldn’t be adapted for other pear varietals, in fact most recipes aren’t written for Asian pears, so I am always pleased when they work out.
Pear Spread – adapted from The Joy of Jams and Jellies (L. Ziedrich)
3 pounds ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
¼ cup lemon juice
5 cups sugar
If wanting to do low sugar version: use half the sugar and low sugar pectin 1 – 2 Tablespoons
Extra credit: vanilla bean/paste, candied or minced fresh ginger etc
Makes about 3 pints. Technically this is a jam recipe but I call it a spread so that there aren’t any “expectations” not met if it doesn’t set up perfectly….
Combine the pears and lemon juice in a preserving pain (I use a big sauté), cover the pan and set it over low heat.
Simmer the pears, stirring occasionally until they are soft, 20-30 minutes.
Puree the pears in a blender. Be careful they are hot and you need to let the steam escape. Start at a low speed and increase to avoid it sputtering out on you! You could also use a food mill or processor.
Return the pear puree to the pan and stir in sugar (and pectin if using). Over low heat, stir until the sugar dissolves and then raise the heat to medium high. Add the ginger if using. Bring to a boil and continue to boil it stirring constantly (of find someone else to stir) for 15 minutes, until the mystical test of heavy falling jam is passed. Remove the pan from heat and stir until bubbling stops. Mix in vanilla paste at this point if using
Ladle the jam into the prepared jars, put on the lids and process for 10 minutes.
I use less than perfect pears to make this jam (save the prettier ones for the wine sauce, since they are whole). What does this statement mean? I cut around the wormy or bruised parts, yes there are worms (pictorial evidence below). Still standing to tell the tale.
The low sugar version turned out great and I will likely make this the standard instead of the full sugar.
Pear Blueberry Jam
A while back I made blueberry jam and also took the chance to re-can a few jars of pear jam that didn’t seal right away and were just put right into the freezer. I wanted to keep the jams separate with a layered look, so after thawing the pear jam and reheated to a boil and ladled part of it into prepared jars, added a layer of prepared blueberry jam on top then another layer of pear etc. I processed for 10 minutes. I think that it turned out beautifully (and tastes delicious to boot).
Another favorite I have shared before but worthy of repeating, a few updates to add.
Pears in Wine Sauce– adapted from The Joy of Jams and Jellies (L. Ziedrich)
Makes perfect pears for enjoying on the spot or canning for later (Gifts! Holidays! Pretty in jars!)
3 cups red wine (aka one bottle) – recommend not too tannic, I just use what is around the house and not spendy
~ 3/4 cup sugar
Cinnamon sticks (2-4 inches)
4 lbs pears
Makes about 2 quarts, but not super specific. I recommend pint jars, enough for about 3-4 servings with a quality vanilla ice cream. Ok to double, triple this recipe, as long as your pot is big enough
Peal, core and slice pears. I use a melon baller for easy and nice looking coring. Also, sometimes I leave a stem on for decoration.
Bring wine, sugar and cinnamon to a boil. Add pears and let them poach for ~ 15 minutes. With Asian pears they don’t really get soft, but you would want to watch that with other types
Transfer the pears into the jars. then add in liquid. Pack them in. Using big and small pear slices help. Some are full halves, others quarter or smaller pears. Leave about 1/2 inch head space.
Process in hot water bath for 25 minutes. Let sit in canner with heat off for 5 minutes or so.
To serve: heat and bring liquid to a boil, remove pears to individual bowls and reduce the wine sauce a little more if you like. Scoop up each bowl with vanilla ice cream and then ladle in some of the sauce (melty!) and if you like sprinkle a touch of crunchy granola on top.
I have made these with white wine and the turned out tasty but I think the red looks prettier in the jar. I prepared them for a dinner party recently and mixed together a jar of white wine and two red. Turned out as good as ever.
I’m into hot water … bath canning. 🙂 This is my third year canning and it is as satisfying as ever. This year has been especially “fruitful” with the Asian pear tree in our backyard producing I am not even sure how many pounds, probably about 30#. The plum tree also really out did itself with about 60 cups (yes, they are all chopped). Seems to produce every other year. We also waged war on the blackberries next store but not until we made some jam! Yum. Below I would like to share some photos of the bounty and some pictures of the process.
This year’s big canning lesson is about siphoning and why you should follow the directions that say to leave them in the canner for so many more minutes after they are done processing. I tried out a new brand of jars this year (Leifheit) in addition to the Ball and Bormioli Rocco. They seemed to be leaking or boiling over when I would remove them from their hot water bath. Turns out that they were siphoning, which occurs when when liquid is drawn out of the jar by a rapid change in temperature and air pressure. It seemed to happen in the Leifheit jars, but they always had pears in wine sauce (so more the saucy part than jar type). You need to let them sit and finish the seal then remove. Ah hah! I still think the Leifheit were more prone to it, as I haven’t had this issue in the past with the wine sauce recipe in ball jars, and I never let them sit in the canner, before this year.
Pears in Wine Sauce – adapted from The Joy of Jams and Jellies (L. Ziedrich)
3 cups red wine (aka one bottle) – recommend not too tannic, I just use what is around the house and not spendy
~ 3/4 cup sugar
4 lbs pears
Makes about 2 quarts, but not super specific. I recommend pint jars, enough for about 3-4 servings with ice cream.
– Peal, core and slice pears. I use a melon baller for easy and nice looking coring. Also, sometimes I leave a stem on for decoration.
– Bring wine, sugar and cinnamon to a boil. Add pears and let them poach for ~ 15 minutes. With Asian pears they don’t really get soft, but you would want to watch that with other types
– Transfer the pears into the jars. then add in liquid. Pack them in. Using big and small pear slices help. Some are full halves, others quarter or smaller pears. Leave about 1/2 inch head space.
– Process in hot water bath for 25 minutes. Let sit in canner with heat off for 5 minutes or so (to prevent SIPHONING).
As you can see, I don’t have a true canner. I use a large seafood stock pot and on the bottom I put one of those stainless steel veggie steamer on the bottom.
This recipe is very tasty and a great gift. To serve heat up sauce and pears, reduce wine if you like, and serve with ice cream. My mother also apparently made an entree with them and an acorn squash…. This year I made some with white wine. Haven’t tasted them yet but I must say the red ones are just prettier… 🙂 I’ll update once we try the white wine version.
Other treats – pear jam, savory plum sauce, crock pot plum butter, tomatillo salsa!