Im partial to pears. This fruit has sweet, juicy, almost silky flesh, making it great to eat whole. In recipes, pears are most accommodating, working in dishes both savoury and sweet. To end a fine meal, set out some pears with an assortment of fine cheese and, perhaps, some Port and life will be good.Pears are also an attractive-looking fruit and thats a good thing because they may be sitting in your fruit bowl a few days. According to the New Food Lovers Companion, Mother Nature protected the easily bruised pear by making it better when picked when mature, but still hard and not ripe. Unlike most fruit, pears are best ripened off the tree, where they improve in both texture and flavour, the book says. Picking pears when not ripe also makes them easier to transport. That explains why the pears you see in stores and farm markets are often in wonderful-looking condition, but still feel firm, ready for you to take them home and ripen them there. To do that, you must leave the pears out at room temperature. To speed up the process, you could place the pears in a paper bag, which will concentrate the ethylene the fruit naturally gives off that helps ripen the fruit. To speed up the process even more, place other ethylene-emitting fruit in the bag with the pears, such as apples or bananas.When ripe, some varieties, such as Bartlett pears, change from green to yellow. However non-Bartletts, such as Anjou, Bosc, Seckel and others do not change much in colour as they ripen. Because of that, youll have to feel the pear to gauge ripeness. According to the USA Pears website, usapears.org, because pears ripen from the inside out, the best way to check for ripeness is to check the neck. To do this, gently press near the stem with your thumb. When it gives to gentle pressure, it is ripe and ready to eat. That website says if you wait until the pear is soft around the middle, then it will be overripe.When pears are ripe, to prolong shelf life, store them in the refrigerator and plan to eat or use them in a recipe within a few days. If youve bought a pile of pears because the price was right, only ripen what you will eat in the next while and refrigerate the others until youre ready to ripen another batch. Unripe pears will keep a few weeks in the refrigerator.Pears are an excellent source of dietary fibre, a good source of vitamin C and also contain potassium. There are thousands of varieties, such as the juicy, delicate and most commonly sold Bartlett, the egg-shaped Anjou and the long-necked Bosc mentioned above. Other types of pears include the sweet and fragrant Comice and the buttery-fleshed Packam. I dont have room to fully described those and other pears here, but on the USA Pears website noted above, and the B.C. Tree Fruit website, bctree.com, youll see images, descriptions and suggested uses for a variety of pears. As noted in my introduction, pears can be used in all sorts of sweet and savoury preparations. Today I showcase that in recipes for a fine autumn soup, brilliant chutney and a flaky free-form tart called a galette.
>Recipes, C3Note: In last weeks column on local food and drink events I gave incorrect information about Art of the Cocktail's Grand Tasting event. Tickets for the Grand Tasting are $45 and include two cocktail samples, not five as I noted. Additional cocktail samples are just $1 each (cash only). For more information and tickets for this event and others go to artofthecocktail.ca
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