Today was like a bonus day - with Monday off for MLK day, I felt like doing something I would enjoy rather than something I should do. So, with the laundry in piles, the dishwasher waiting to be emptied, and a table full of pantry items to be put away, I decided to make pear butter!
Although I had collected plenty of small jars during the past year, we hadn't finished enough of the watermelon jelly or orange vanilla syrup (a jelly that didn't set up correctly). I needed jars. I grabbed my keys and headed out to the local Walmart. Fortunately, it was still early so I was able to find a spot and get inside quickly. My excitement faded, however, as I stood in the aisle staring at the gaping hole on the shelf. They were all out!
Walmart number two - laid out differently than my store so I asked the young man unloading Valentine's Day merchandise where the housewares section was.
"The 'what' section?"
"Dishes and cooking tools."
"Oh" he replied and pointed to the far corner of the store.
I walked up and down each aisle. Where are they? Another employee walked past.
"Where are your canning supplies?"
"You mean, Ball canning jars?"
"Oh, those were on clearance months ago. Isn't this the wrong time of year for canning?" I rolled my eyes and sighed heavily.
"No, not for jam and jellies."
My next thought was a thrift shop. There are a number of them in the area so I went to the farthest one, thinking I could stop at each on the way home and maybe find enough jars to make one batch of pear butter. The Family Thrift Shop in East Dundee is a huge for-profit shop. Normally, I would rather go to the non-profit stores but they do purchase items from non-profits like Goodwill and the Salvation Army so I settled. I had found jars there - maybe I would be lucky again.
At thrift shops, you never know exactly where you'll find the canning jars. Sometimes they are mixed in with the glasses and mugs. Sometimes they are by the glass bake ware and other times you find them by the vases. I went to the kitchen section first and happened upon a jackpot! Sitting there were 13 half pint jelly jars and each was marked 22 cents. It must be fate.
I hurried home and started making my pear butter while the jars ran through the dishwasher. The recipe I worked from was for regular Bartlett pear butter but I thought I would give it a try.
During the 4 hour process (yes, 4 hours), I learned quite a lot.
1. Asian pear skins are thin and will tear themselves into pieces small enough to pass through the food mill. (Next time I will peel them ahead of time.)
2. Asian pear seeds are small, smaller than the holes in my food mill. (Next time I will seed them, too.)
3. Asian pears are looser when cooked so they require much more time to reduce (nearly 90 minutes on high).
4. Asian pears have very little pectin. A grated apple helps pull it all together.
Well, here is a picture of my final product. It looks beautiful and tastes amazing. The triangular dish I have it on is a piece from my milk glass collection. It is from a 1950's or 1960's ladies "snack set" behind the jars is the indent for the coffee cup. It is called "orange blossom". Mom had a large set that she divided between my sister and I. Over the years, we've collected additional pieces and even found the sugar and creamer set.