I have been looking so forward to writing this post.
And not simply for the opportunity to introduce you to pear honey (it's not really honey, honey, but we'll get to that in a minute) but rather to talk about backstories.
My sister-in-law once asked me how I decide what to put on the blog. Largely, my inspiration comes from the seemingly never-ending supply of food magazines to which I subscribe (probably too many), Pinterest pins (probably too many) and aha! moments of my own (probably not enough).
And then sometimes they are simply handed to me.
A few weeks ago, given the overwhelming number of pears we got from our trees this year (yay, pear trees -- keep up the good work!), I made and posted about pear butter. Yum. In sharing a link to the pear butter post on my Facebook page, a follower commented something Amazon-ish like "If you like pear butter, you should try pear honey."
Here's where the backstory gets interesting: The commenting follower was Margaret, a college classmate of mine that I didn't know well as an undergrad and have only come to know better and consider a friend in the past few years, thanks to Facebook and 5-year-interval college reunions. In her comment, she mentioned that her mother used to make pear honey all the time.
Whaaaa? Pear honey? I was intrigued.
I (of course) googled around and found that pear honey isn't honey at all but actually a sweet pear jam. Bizarrely, it's made with pears, sugar and ... wait for it ... canned pineapple.
I know, right? Who the hell decides to put these things together for the first time? "You know what this pear jam needs? PINEAPPLE!"
But I was willing to take Margaret's word for it. But given the variety of recipes for pear honey on the interwebs claiming to be "the best," I decided to go for a proven recipe: I asked Margaret if her mother, Helen, would be willing to share her recipe.
Much to my delight, she was. And it turns out it's a vintage recipe, "from an old, old cookbook before the days of Sure Jell and modern instructions for making jams/jellies/preserves," according to Helen. But she has since modified it, so it's now her own.
And boy, am I ever glad I asked because Helen's recipe was the only one that included what I think is the piece de resistance: fresh ginger.
We have a winner.
Let's be clear on several things, if you're going to try making pear honey, so you don't leave me outraged comments (not that you, my awesome readers, ever would) or think that you messed up the recipe when you taste it:
- It's not really honey. It's jam.
- It doesn't taste like honey. It tastes like jam.
- It has the consistency of neither jam nor honey. It's more like applesauce.
- There's a LOT of sugar in it, I know. But don't screw around with the ratios or it may wind up tasting gross at best or being unsafe to eat at worst.
- I didn't name it "pear honey" and neither did Helen, so don't give either of us any crap about misnomers.
Additionally, here are what I think are the best ways to use it:
- Slathered on toast or muffins like jam (WHICH. IT. IS.)
- As a sauce for roast chicken or pork
- Swirled into yogurt for breakfast
- Stirred into a jam cake or bread
- On goat cheese crostini (toast some baguette slices, spread on a little goat cheese and top it all with some pear honey -- holy moly is this ever awesome!)
Being The Ninj (as well as being both a bit lazy and unwilling to take the "there's so much sugar in it that you don't need to process it" risk that accompanied the recipe), I have adapted Helen's recipe just a tad but it's essentially still hers.
The best part of the pear honey for me, though, is still the backstory. As one of my other college friends pointed out, "Would you have believed me 20 years ago if I told you that one day you'd be making jam from a recipe you got from Margaret's mother?!!"
Regardless, Helen, Margaret and I all hope you enjoy it and help keep the vintage pear honey tradition alive. Just be sure to share the backstory.
This recipe makes quite a bit: 13 half-pint jars for me. If that's too much for you, feel free to halve the recipe -- but the pear honey is great for gift-giving or food-swapping!
8 pounds pears, coarsely chopped (don't bother to peel or core)
10 cups sugar (yes, I'm serious)
1 20-ounce can crushed unsweetened pineapple (including the liquid)
2 tablespoons very finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
In a VERY large pot, combine all the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the fruit is very soft (you can periodically mash it with the back of a spoon or a potato masher to help it along).
Using a slotted spoon (to retain all the liquid in the pot), remove the solids and run them through a food mill. Strain the liquid from the pot to remove any remaining seeds or bits of peel (don't use too fine a mesh sieve or you'll strain out the ginger bits). Return the liquid and the milled pear mixture to the pot. Reboil and cook at an active simmer until thick and jammy (doesn't have to reach gel stage, though) -- this took nearly half an hour for me.
Ladle into prepared jars and either cool and store in the refrigerator OR process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Remove the canner lid and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and let cool; check the seals and store.