Thursday, 23 June 2016

Mulled Pears

Now that longest day and summer solstice has been and gone my thought tend to start to necessarily thinking about items to put down/up onto the pantry shelves for the winter months and to give my family a treat of something a little different. I grew up in a family that took its food very seriously and it had to be good quality food.  In fact you could mark the seasons with the routines and events and family "get togethers" to either gather and collect or process those elements that had been cherished and nurtured to produce a healthy crop either by friends or by my grandparents.  Bartering was a common practice where everyone got what they wanted without money changing hands. Growing and bartering was out of necessity because they like others of their generation could not always afford to buy and often reverted to making things themselves to get by.  And it is the getting by that is the important thing here.

I miss those days where the family would gather at my grandparents and we would then be up the trees harvesting the produce and then grading and sorting it for different functions. It was a way of life  -  a pattern that followed year to year and let you knew where you stood but it embraced the season also. Nan always did a big roast of something  - often it was pork for when all the family gathered and we all had things to do to help get everything ready.  The better quality fruit was always eaten fresh and/or bottled or frozen and the rest made into chutneys and wine.  My Nan's Plum wine was to die for. It was light and fizzy due to letting a natural second fermentation take place.

I am very aware that not everything can go into the freezer and I tend to put mostly meat, fish and veg in there although I do put some fruit.  So to me it makes eminent sense that I should be putting more stuff up in bottles. I can still remember row upon row of bottled gooseberries, apples, pears, plums and rhubarb on my grandmother and my mother's pantry shelves.  All to give that option of pudding after a tasty meal. during long cold hard winter months where you needed the reinforcement of food in your belly to keep you warm and well.  That variety of food also kept us healthy for the best part and nothing was ever wasted.  So our family always had these as staples and available to use in our pantries.

In this country we tend to use the hot water bath method of processing food in bottles which is known as "BOTTLING" which should not be confused with "CANNING" the American version.  Canning only should be used for vegetables and meat.   It is also used for fruit as well.

Please note that a British Pressure cooker is not the same as a Canner although it can be used for certain elements of food processing but not for meat and vegetables. 

Hot water bath bottling is basically submerging filled jars under water over heat to take out any excess air from that bottle which is the chief culprit for food going off. It is primarily used for fruit.   It was a process that was daunting to me to start with but now I have become more au fait with the practice it is not that difficult if you follow the procedures laid out in recent cook books for preserving.  I say recent because older books give recipes for vegetables which were more often printed when those recipes used to be in common practice.  However due to the problems that botulism causes it has not been encouraged to practice.  I would only personally use a proper canner for processing and preparing vegetables for your own pantry store. 

Anyway I digress.  There are some very nice pears available at the greengrocers at the moment which are ideal for bottling whole.  They are just a nice size and I have some original dual purpose Kilner jars that just need lids and metal seals which I think are going to be ideal for this purpose.  These jars are 4 pint ones so will be ideal for popping up something special for the Christmas celebrations and I am contemplating making Pears in Red Wine as well as putting a couple of batches of pears down under syrup.  I have done something similar before but I have not made this particular recipe which is a new one to me.  The recipe comes from Home Preserves by Jackie Burrows an M & S publication which if you can get hold of it is a very good all rounder when it comes to preserving your own food.  The ISBN Number is:0 90230 81 3.


1 pint of red wine
1 pint of water
8oz of sugar
4 tablespoons of redcurrant jelly
4 strips of lemon rind
1 cinnamon stick
4 1/2lbs of "cooking" pears

Cooking time: approximately 1 1/2 hours

Pour the wine and the water into a nice heavy based saucepan adding the sugar the redcurrant jelly lemon rind and cinnamon.  Heat gently but at this stage do not bring the boil stirring all the time to make sure that the sugar has dissolved properly.  Once the sugar had dissolved bring the mixture up to a boil and keep it there for a couple of minutes.

Before processing the pears prepare a bowl with cold water in and dissolve a tablespoon of citric acid in the water.  This will stop the pears from oxidising (going brown) and keep them white.  As you peel and core each pear and the cut them in half lengthways then drop the prepared pear into this mixture until all the pears are prepared.  then;

Place your pear haves into the simmering wine mixture and cook for about 15 minutes until the pears are just tender. You do not want to over cook them as you want them to keep their shape.  Remove the pears with a slotted spoon from the wine mixture  and carefully pack into warm sterilised bottles.  (I say warm as if the jar is cold and then you add hot liquid it can crack the jars wrecking all your efforts to preserve something).  fully pack the bottles.  Pour over the boiling wine syrup. Place either rubber rings or seals on prepared bottles but without clips or screw bands.

Stand the bottles on a baking sheet lined with a tea towel or newspaper making sure that the bottles do not touch and to allow hot air to circulate.  Place in the centre of  a preheated cool oven  (150 degrees c, 300 degrees f, Gas mark 2 and cook for about an hour. (this is known as the oven method).

Remove the bottles from the oven and secure immediately with clips or screw bands, then leave to cool.  When completely cool test the seal then wipe clean, label and store.

Makes approximately 4lb (4 x 1lb jars).

I must admit the Mulled pears are for me as I love mulled wine.  OH is not a fan.  So this is a little treat for me. Well why not - sometimes it does you good to have a little of what you fancy!

On that point I will wish you good evening.

Catch you soon.



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