Marilyn Monroe sang about the joy of owning a “pear-shaped” diamond. The British use the term “pear-shaped” to describe something that has become horribly complicated or gone terribly wrong.
Vocal musicians are trained to sing with a “pear-shaped” tone because it is full, clear, even and resonant.
Although it is sometimes hard to find clothes that fit properly, women with “pear-shaped” figures are less likely to have heart disease.
Christmas would not be the same without the ringing tones of “a partridge in a pear tree.”
And to food enthusiasts, the pear is known for so much more than just its distinctive shape.
Members of the quince and apple families, pears are one of the oldest cultivated fruits. Pears were grafted in 5,000 B.C. by the Chinese and mentioned by Homer in “The Odyssey” as a “gift of the gods.” Roman farmers documented extensive pear growing and grafting techniques and lauded their value as a much desired commodity because of their long shelf life.
China, Italy and the United States lead the world in the production of pears. They were brought to the US by colonists on the East Coast and introduced on the West Coast by missionaries who planted the trees in their mission gardens. Today the US grows many varieties that are at their peak from August to October, and some are available most of the year.
The most popular “eating pears” are the Yellow Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Forelle and Seckel. The best pears for poaching and baking are the Green and Red Anjous and the Bosc because of their firmer flesh. The Comice Pear is an excellent accompaniment for salads and cheese because it is the largest and sweetest variety.
A traditional and delicious accompaniment to pears is cheese. Each variety of pear has its own characteristics and goes well with different types of cheese. The Bosc pear has a stronger flavor and can stand up to a sharp cheddar. Bartlett pears have a buttery undertone and are delicious with a mild and nutty gouda. Softer cheeses such as havarti, brie and fontina work well with the intensely sweet Seckel pear. The Comice, favorite of cheese connoisseurs, is best accompanied by rich blue cheeses such as gorganzola. The Italians love cheese with their pears so much that they have an old proverb that states “Don't tell the peasant how good cheese is with pears. They belong to the nobility.”
Pears are also a great choice for healthy eating. They are considered almost hypo-allergenic, contain vitamin C and potassium in good quantity and have fiber in the skin and special fiber in the flesh called sclereids. The sclereids are the gritty feel found more pronounced in some varieties. This extra fiber makes them a great weapon in the battle for good colon health. Pears also contain good quantities of copper, which nutritionists believe can fight colon cancer.
Hopkins County has some great pear trees and some great recipes for pear preserves. You can find several of these in local community cookbooks.
The combination of pomegranate and pear below will boost your immune system and provide a delicious, elegant dessert.
Pomegranate Poached Pears
3 cups red grape juice or red wine
2 cups pomegranate juice
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange peel
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 cinnamon stick
6 medium pears
In a Dutch oven, combine the first eight ingredients.
Core pears from the bottom, leaving stems intact.
Peel pears; place on their sides in the pan.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until pears are almost tender.
Remove with a slotted spoon; cool.
Strain poaching liquid and return to Dutch oven.
Bring to a boil; cook until reduced to a sauce (about 1 cup) in approximately 45 minutes.
Discard rosemary and cinnamon. Place pears on serving platter. Drizzle with poaching liquid.
Pear Tarte Tatin
1 pie crust
3 tbs. butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs. honey
2 pounds (about 6) firm-ripe pears, cored and peeled
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Roll out the pastry to an 11-inch circle and chill. Melt butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet. Add the sugar and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to evenly caramelize the sugar. The sugar is done when it has turned a medium golden-brown hue. Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the honey, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pears lengthwise into slices.
Toss the pears gently with the lemon zest and nutmeg. Arrange the pears in a single layer in the hot caramel mixture in the skillet.
Cook the pears in the skillet over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the pears start to become tender.
Remove the skillet from the heat and drape the pastry over the spiced pears, fitting the overhang down between the fruit and the sides of the skillet.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry turns golden brown. Cool the tarte tatin in the skillet for 30 minutes before serving.
For the past 20 years, Cindy Welch has been involved with all aspects
of cooking, including formal culinary training, experience as food service director for First Baptist Church of Euless, a personal chef and owner of Cindy’s Casa Cuisine. Cindy’s favorite hobby is “providing delicious food for the people of Sulphur Springs.”
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