Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rosemary Pear Jelly

I really needed to thin our pear tree. It had tons of tiny pears, growing in clusters of 2-5, and I'm hoping that if I pick off all but one from each cluster, we might get decent size pears this year. So what to do with 6 pounds of hard, green, far-from-ripe pears? I've read that you can make apple-rosemary jelly from unripe apples, because they have natural pectin, which is what makes jellies gel. If you just cook them plain, you can even make your own pectin for use in other jellies! So I thought I would try it with pears, since unripe pears are supposed to have lots of pectin too (the riper they are, the less pectin).

I cut all the pears in half, sliced up a whole lemon (which is supposed to add extra pectin), covered it all with water, and boiled for about an hour. It filled the house with the most amazing scent! Everything got pretty soft, but not mushy, as you can see. Perhaps I could have cooked it even more. Then I laid a clean, thin flour-sack type dishtowel over a colander, and dumped the fruit in so the liquid drained into another pot. All the recipes say you should not push down to squeeze the juice out, or else the jelly will end up cloudy.  I left it to drain overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, I added 3 cups of sugar and a couple sprigs of rosemary to the 3 cups of liquid I got, and started boiling it down. You're supposed to reduce the liquid's volume by half, and then it should be pretty much at the point where it's ready to gel. By this time, my jelly was frothing like crazy, coming up almost to the top of the pot, so I added a tiny sliver of butter, and that calmed it down to a manageable level. I kept stirring, and it was starting to look pretty thick, but I had a little trouble determining when it was done. I admit, I am a jelly novice, so... hilarity ensues!

Jelly recipes always say things like "when it sheets off the spoon", which I have never quite understood. I tried putting a dab on a cold plate to see if it gelled, but it didn't seem quite jellylike enough. In retrospect, I definitely should have stopped then. But I waited until I thought it was "sheeting," a few minutes longer. Only after I put it in the jars did I realize I may have overcooked it a bit, because I looked at the spoon and the stuff on it was incredibly sticky and thick like taffy! I finally found a more definitive description of what the jelly is supposed to do on the chilled plate. When you put a dab on the plate, you let it cool to room temperature and then run your finger through it. If the line stays, it is done. So I scooped my now rubber-cement-like jelly out of the jars (wow, was that easier said than done) and put it back in the pot with about another cup of water. I boiled it again, whisking vigorously to break up the lumps, then did the plate test again and it looked ok. Whew!

After all that, I was too exhausted to bother sterilizing the jars or processing them in boiling water like you're supposed to, so I guess I'll just keep them in the fridge.  Although the texture didn't come out quite perfect, the jelly was absolutely delicious on Sunday morning toast, and I bet it would be great on pork chops.  I'd say I'll probably be making this again (and hopefully getting it right the first time) next year!
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