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I love apples, but if I had to choose, I'd have to say that pears are my favorite fall fruit. I love the intense sweetness and creamy flesh of a perfectly ripe pear.
But this relatively short window of perfection comes and goes quickly. Eat a pear too soon and it's likely to be hard and not all that sweet, but wait too long and your pear will become a whole lot of sweet mush.
Pears, unlike apples, are best picked when not yet ripe, and need some time off the tree to develop ideal texture and sweetness. So, when you buy your pears – whether it be from the grocery store or a local orchard – they'll likely need a few days on your counter before they're ready to use.
It's pretty easy to tell when Bartletts are ripe: they turn from green to yellow as they ripen. But with most other types of pears, color doesn't change much, so you need to rely on feel to determine when they're ready. If the pear feels firm in your hand but will yield just slightly to gentle pressure from your fingertips around the stem area, it’s ripe.
You'll want to use your newly ripe pears quickly so they don't become mushy. It's possible to make a good jam with mushy, overripe pears, but for this recipe it's important to use pears that are still firm. This is because the recipe calls for pear chunks (rather than mashed pear, which is what's usually needed for jam), and the chunks need to be firm enough to remain mostly intact when cooked. I used Bartletts when I made this recipe, but any variety will work well as long as the pears are ripe and firm.
This recipe also calls for lemons, which offset the sweetness of the pears in a lovely way. Use organic lemons if possible, especially since you'll be using some of the peel. The resulting marmalade is sweet, sour, and delicious. Honey contributes a bit of warmth and depth, and the peels add a very subtle touch of bitter – perfect slathered on a piece of toast with a bit of butter on a cold, late Fall morning.
Honeyed Pear-Lemon Marmalade
Yield: 4 to 5 cups
Before You Begin:
Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona's pectin) with ½ cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
Honeyed Pear-Lemon Marmalade Ingredients
2 ¼ pounds pears
4 lemons, divided
1 cup water
1 cup honey
4 teaspoons calcium water
2 ½ teaspoons Pomona's Pectin powder
Honeyed Pear-Lemonade Marmalade Directions
1. Wash and rinse jars, lids, and screw bands. Set screw bands aside until ready to use. Place jars in boiling water bath canner with a rack, fill at least 2/3 of the way full with water, and bring to a boil. Boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize (add 1 additional minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level), then turn down heat and let jars stand in hot water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small pan, bring to a low simmer, and hold there until ready to use.
2. Peel the pears and remove cores. Discard peels and cores. Slice the pears into small (about ¾ inch) chunks, then set aside.
3. Wash lemons thoroughly. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the yellow part of the peel from 2 of the lemons. Then slice these peels into thin, length-wise strips about 1 inch long and place in a sauce pan.
4. Remove and discard the remaining white pith from the two peeled lemons. Pull these lemons apart into segments, and slice these segments into small pieces. Remove and discard any seeds, then add these lemons to the sauce pan.
5. Slice the remaining 2 lemons in half and squeeze out their juice. Set aside ¼ cup of the lemon juice. Add any remaining lemon juice to the sauce pan.
6. Add the 1 cup of water to the lemon mixture in the sauce pan. Cover mixture and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat slightly and cook, covered, for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pears and turn the heat up to high to bring the mixture back up to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook the mixture, still covered and stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.
7. Remove the pan from the heat, empty the pear-lemon mixture into a bowl or other heat-proof container, then measure out 4 cups of the mixture. (If you have any left over, you can use it for something else.) Pour the measured quantity of the mixture back into the sauce pan. Add the remaining ¼ cup lemon juice and the calcium water, then stir to combine.
8. In a separate bowl, combine the honey and pectin powder. Mix well and set aside.
9. Bring the pear-lemon mixture to a full boil over high heat. Add the honey-pectin mixture and stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, still over the highest heat, to dissolve the pectin. Return the marmalade to a full boil, then remove from heat.
10. Remove hot jars from canner and fill jars with marmalade, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, and put on lids and screw bands, tightening bands only to "fingertip tight" (until resistance is met, and then just the tiniest bit more).
11. Place jars in the hot water, on the rack inside the canner. (Make sure jars are upright, not touching each other or the sides of the canner, and are covered with at least 1-2 inches of water). Place the lid on the canner, return the canner to a rolling boil, and boil for 10 minutes. (Add 1 minute additional processing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.)
12. Turn off heat and allow canner and jars to sit for 5 minutes. Then, remove jars from canner.
13. Allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Then, confirm that jars have sealed. Remove screw bands from sealed jars, rinse off outside of jars if necessary, label jars, and store for later use. Eat within 1 year. Lasts 3 weeks once opened.
Recipe and photos by Allison Carroll Duffy