Category Archives: pear

in praise of pears…

The pears are starting to ripen; in fact a large quantity of the Beth pear, an early variety, had dropped to the ground.  It is a, relatively, modern cultivar, developed by East Malling Research Station, (Williams x Buerre Superfin), and has the RHS AGM, (always a good sign for UK growers).

The pear is delicious and not wanting to miss out, we gathered up most of the fallen fruit.  There is always, as with gluts, a moment when I think ‘what on earth am I going to do with this lot?’,

but once I start prepping, the produce is used up in no time.  In this case, there wasn’t any point in storing the windfalls, (they were already ripe), so we sliced them up for drying.  The pear chips are much sweeter than the dried apple rings, so I can’t see them being around for very long.

I also decided to make chutney with the firmer Beth pears.  I’ve made Tom Kerridge’s spiced version, (here on the BBC Good Food website), on a number of occasions and it’s probably my favourite chutney.  One benefit of this blog being a haphazard record of the holding is that I know that the last time I made this was much, much later in the year, (December!), using Williams pears.  Whilst the Williams is also an early ripening variety, we had kept these fruit in cold storage, (the fridge), and brought the pears out a couple of days beforehand to finish ripening.

The recipe called for 10 pears and I made 4 1lb jars, and these have been added to our larder.

The glut is no more!

 

 

 

 

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it’s beginning to feel like a lot like Christmas…

…especially when the aroma from spices like star anise perfume the kitchen.

We’ve been storing some pears in a little fridge in an outbuilding.  The Williams were still nice and firm, so I decided to use them to make Tom Kerridge’s version of spiced pear chutney.

dsc_0649 dsc_0655dsc_0667The recipe calls for a small amount of perry, the pear version of cider.  We don’t produce enough pears for perry making so I headed off to our local grocery store. The most famous brand, of course, is that great retro drink, ‘Baby Cham’.  I didn’t realise that the brand was still around but it is! though it’s not stocked at my local; which is a shame as I seem to recall that the bottles were quite small which would have been handy as the recipe only needed 100ml.

Though we  are in December, I don’t like to start decorating for Christmas too early, however, we will be getting our tree this Sunday.  Once again it will come from a neighbour’s small plantation of Norway Spruce, a tree I much prefer to the Nordmann fir in spite of the propensity to drop its needles.  I understand that this year our neighbour has upped his retail offering and made a netting machine from an old oil drum.

In anticipation of the tree’s arrival, I have been rescuing forlorn baubles from the charity shop…..

dsc_0664….getting a lot like Christmas.

 

 

a perfect pear….

pear bowlWe have a number of pear trees which are planted along the piggery wall.  They should have been fan trained on wires sometime ago. They will be, they will be.

The varieties we have are: William Bon Chretien; Buerre Hardy; Doyenne du Comice; Beth; Conference; Concorde and Invincible.  All except Beth have produced a reasonable crop either this, or last year.  I’m keeping my eye on the Beth specimen.  In theory the variety is meant to be easy to grow and reliable.  It certainly is a vigorous specimen so perhaps I need to concentrate on a July prune to develop more fruiting spurs or somehow stress the tree.

french flagThe Doyenne du Comice and Buerre Hardy trees gave good crops this year.  Originating in France in the 19th century, both produce utterly delicious dessert fruit though, at this precise moment, the Buerre takes top spot because the flesh is so juicy, sweet and, yes, does have a ‘melting’ quality.  The Comice needs to ripen more.

It is notoriously difficult to judge the exact point of ripeness of a pear on the tree so we picked all the pears in October and then placed them in a fridge housed in one of the outbuildings.  A period of time in cold storage seems to help to ripen the fruit.  We take them out a few days before eating.

pear storeIt is a real treat to eat a properly ripened pear rather than munching through a hard green Conference, the beloved variety of the supermarket, though the sweetness of the fruit marries perfectly with the salty creaminess of blue cheese and the crunch of walnuts, drizzled with some of our elderberry vinegar.  A delicious lunch, rustled up in minutes.

salad

 

 

 

going, going….. gone?

The OH and I had a DAY OUT last weekend whereupon I dragged him off to visit a lovely walled kitchen garden in Sugnall, (http://sugnall.co.uk/walled-garden/), followed by the gorgeous gardens at Wollerton Old Hall (http://wollertonoldhallgarden.com/).  Both are well worth a visit but I reserve a soft spot for Sugnall.  Privately owned, bravely restored – it costs just £2.00 to visit, (August 2014).  The 2 acre walled kitchen garden contains an interesting mix of pyramid trained apple and pear trees lining the quadrants; (the owner was assisted in the selection by Nick Dunn of Frank P. Matthews – a complete guru in matters of top fruit and ornamental trees.  I have seen him pruning orchards – amazing doesn’t come close).   Some modern varieties plus many old including the Black Worcester pear, an old English cooker which probably pre-dates Tudor.

DSC_0572

The Walled Kitchen Gardens network (http://www.walledgardens.net/) has a handy pdf listing restored and partially restored walled kitchen gardens which one can visit.  I’m determined to go and see more, because they might not be there forever.  It takes a lot of manpower to maintain a working kitchen garden and let’s face it, the produce grown within them won’t cover the wages of the gardeners.  So if a few quid from me in entrance money and a cream tea helps then that’s money well spent.

Black Worcester Pear

Black Worcester Pear

Reading this week: Cottesbrooke by Susan Campbell

 

The first cut is the deepest ….

yusuf_cat-stevensAhh, Yusuf / Cat Stevens – a wonderful singer-songwriter.  But I’m not here to indulge my late 1960’s youth.  No, no, I can’t put it off again – well I could… but therein lies trouble. I should have done it last year – really, really should have.  Best laid plans and all.

Anyhow, apple and pear tree formative pruning.  The trees were put in last year and I should have pruned just after planting, but I didn’t, because it’s all a bit scary pruning top fruit for the first time and I was probably so impressed that they all got planted that I didn’t get round to pruning. So here I am one year on and I had better get on with it.

We don’t have any true tip bearing varieties – so that makes it a bit easier.  What I should have at the end of pruning is an open goblet shape with about 5 main branches and the new growth reduced by about a third to an outward facing bud.  So I trundled off into the orchard to have a bash. But just to prove that it has been done – a before and after.

DSC_0354compressedDSC_0356compressedBefore and after shot of apple Winter Gem

 

 

 

 

Whew… well better get on with the other pruning I haven’t quite caught up with – like the summer raspberries canes that should have been cut right back at the end of fruiting (the ones that fruited that is)….

Reading this week:  Turned Out Nice Again: On Living with the Weather  by Richard Mabey.