Sunday, September 2, 2012
It's a sparse year for pears -- the entire reachable crop is ripening on the dining room table. There are still a few unpicked beauties clustered at the very top of the tree, but for general purposes, what's available this season is in hand now.
Though lacking in numbers they make up for it in size and in perfection of color and shape. A single blushing pear in a blue bowl is almost too beautiful to eat.
But eventually flavor wins out over beauty. When they are at the peak of ripeness, I've never tasted such delicious pears. Last year, at the Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, I studied the array of varieties laid out on long tables in the vast exposition hall, trying to figure out what is growing in our backyard. Our pears do resemble the Barletts; some of those on display had a reddish blush. But that's just a guess.
Fortunately, not knowing the variety doesn't impair the taste.
The best way to eat these pears is the simplest: cored and sliced into a bowl so there's nothing between you and the sweet juice and slightly grainy texture.
They are also delicious with a simple garnish of yogurt and walnuts: my current favorite afternoon snack.
And we don't like to let the summer pass without at least one Tarte Tatin made with our own pears. It has become one of our ritual recipes.
This year I tried making some pear sauce as well. Not too bad, though not as good as homemade applesauce. It would be an OK way to preserve the crop if there's too much to eat fresh.
The experimental pear leather was better than the pear sauce, but not nearly as good as the plum leather. Another fall back method for handling a large crop.
Another great year for pears is almost gone. Each year we get a little better at doing them justice.