This post originally was written (by me) in 2012 as a guest post for another blog, but I figured it was high time I posted it on my own site!
Of all the things I can, pears get eaten the fastest. There are a thousand reasons to can (and about a hundred not to), but nothing is more rewarding after hours of hard work, than opening a jar of “fresh” pears on a cold and snowy January evening.
I’ll reiterate two things from my previous canning posts:
1) The best tool to have as a new canner, is an experience canner by your side. Got an elderly neighbor or relative? Hit them up!
2) Always always always use a trust source for canning. I’m not a trusted source. I’ve been doing this for years, and I’ve never made anyone sick, but still always go by tried and true sources. The Ball Blue Book of Preserving is considered the “canning bible” by many canners.
Shall we get started? Are you excited? Let’s go!
Put your canning jars and rings in the dishwasher, and start the washing cycle. You need to sanitize your lids, and many books recommend putting them on the stove in a boiling pot of water. I’m not sure how big YOUR stove is or how many burners YOU have, but I run out of room really quickly when I’m canning. I like to put my lids in my crockpot with water set on high. Frees up stove space, and still sanitizes the lids. Win win!
For canning jars, I prefer wide-mouth jars to regular-mouth jars for most things. They are slightly more expensive, but I think they are less hassle, especially for pears.
Here is what 40 pounds of pears look like:
Some people will sanitize their sink and then wash all the pears in the sink. That seems like a lot of work to me, so I just put them in my dish strainer and rinse them.
Then, set up your work area. I don’t mind canning pears as much as some things (coughpeachescough) because it allows me to sit down for most of the work. For the work area, I cover my dining room table with a blanket, and then one big cutting board, a chef’s knife, a paring knife, a vegetable peeler, a big bowl of cold water with 1/3 cup of bottled lemon juice mixed in, a refuse bowl, a clean towel (for wiping hands), and a bowl full of the fruit. Also, it’s vital for me to watch something during this mundane task. For this moment in time, I was enjoying The Office via Hulu.
Cut the tops and bottoms (we call them pear butts) off of the fruit. I like to do about 12 at a time so that I’m not switching back and forth between using knives and peelers with slimy pear hands.
Then, using your vegetable peeler, peel off all the pear skins. It takes a few times to learn how to thoroughly skin a pear, but you’ll get there by at least the 3rd or 4th pound!
After that, cut your pear in half from the top to the bottom. Take the paring knife (they do make special pear corers, but a paring knife works great for me), and make a cut from the stem to the bottom on one side. Repeat on the other side, then jiggle the core out. Discard the core, and put the pear in the water with the lemon juice.
When you have a bowl that is getting full of ready pears, head in to the kitchen and start your syrup. The Ball Blue Book recommends a light or medium syrup, and I prefer light – the least amount of sugar with my canned items, the happier I am! Mix 2 ¼ cup of sugar with 5 ¼ cup of water. I use organic evaporate cane juice from Costco because it’s a more natural form of sugar. Again, I’m not a huge fan of sugar in canned goods, but it is essential for safety in many recipes, so I try to “hippy” it up as much as I can! Get it, as much as I can…?
Also, fill up your canning pot about 3/4 full of water, and start that boiling on your biggest burner possible.
Back to the pears! Finish up the pears that still need skinning.
Once the syrup is boiling, add the pears one layer at a time (a canning term that means don’t totally fill the pot) and heat for 5 minutes.
Using a fork, grab the now cooked pears one at a time, and put them in the canning jar. After a while, you learn how to maximize your space when filling the jars.
Pour the hot syrup in to the jars until the pears are completely covered. Leave ½ inch of headspace in the jars. Headspace is basically the space between the top of the syrup and the top rim of the jar.
When you get fruit floating that like, take your fork and smush it down. Pop all those bubbles.
Take a clean rag, and wipe the rims of the jars to remove any syrup, pear bits, etc.
Put a sanitized lid on the jar without touching the underside of the lid.
Then, secure a ring over that to “finger tight”. What that means is you shouldn’t need the Hulk to put these on.
After that, swirl the jar gently to release any bubbles and to settle the syrup. Take a peek through the jar after swirling – are the pears still covered with syrup? Are there bubbles? If so, remove the lid and pop the bubbles with a clean spoon or fork (or use a spork like I did to eat a crap ton of Taco Bell pintos and cheese back in high school), and add more syrup if necessary. If you do that, you’ll have to wipe the rim again.
Once the water is boiling, gently place your jars in one at a time using tongs (I prefer canning tongs, but you can use any rubber tipped tongs). Once your jars (typically 6-7 jars can fit in the canner) are completely covered with the boiling water, put the lid on and boil for 20 minutes (pints) or 25 minutes (quarts).
Once your jars are starting to process, fill up your next 6-7 jars with hot pears, syrup, etc.
Remove the lid after processing and set on a clean towel in a corner of your kitchen where they can sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours. Pretty soon, as the jars cool, you’ll hear a “ping” as the lid seals. If a few hours have passed the lids haven’t sealed (a sealed lid looks like the center has sunken in a little bit), you can reprocess (takes too long in my opinion), or just put in the fridge and eat soon.
The idea of storing with rings on vs. off is a contentious debate. I’d recommend you explore both sides and then make the decision for yourself. I store with rings on, but you should make that choice for you and your family.
Label your jars with the date (month, year. It will make your Type A organized anal retentive side happy) and store in a cool dark place for up to one year. They can be enjoyed “as is”, or fancied up prior to serving.
Have you ever canned pears before? Any tips or tricks to share with my readers?