09 November 2008

Pear Trees and Pear Mincemeat

My grandparents and great-grandparents had pear trees in Louisiana. Pear trees that made LOTS of pears. These were the old-fashioned hard pears - probably Kiefer. It's a hybrid pear - likely a cross between the Chinese sand pear and Bartlett - that was named in 1876 by Peter Kieffer. Although its flesh is more grainy than European pears such as Anjou, Bartlett, or Bosc, it was grown extensively in the USA in the first part of the 20th century. As a tree it is resistant to fireblight - a major disease of European pears grown in humid regions. Therefore it was very prevalent in the Gulf coast states.

When we bought the farm there were three ancient pear trees there. They had been very neglected and we were only able to save one. It is a Kiefer and this year it had a bumper crop. Kiefer pears get ready for picking in the fall and have to sit a week or two or three to get ripe after harvesting. Mike and I brought home a bagful a couple of weekends ago. Something needed to be done with them today.

Pear Mincemeat is my great-grandmother's recipe. I was off at college before I learned that mincemeat originally had meat in it! We never had any kind but this.

When I was a child my Mom always used this to make a bar cookie called Mincemeat Diamonds. Those were some of our favourite cookies. I also have a recipe that calls for topping sweet potatoes with mincemeat that is quite tasty, and this can certainly be used for mincemeat pie.

Three main ingredients:

Fruit all ground and in the pot

After cooking for a bit

Packaged and ready for the freezer

Pear Mincemeat

7 pounds pears
2 lemons
1 pound raisins
3 pounds sugar
1 Tbsp plain salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp allspice
1 Tbsp ground cloves
½ cup cider vinegar

Core and quarter pears. Seed and quarter lemons. Do not peel either fruit. Put through food grinder along with raisins.

Combine all ingredients in large pot over medium heat and simmer until tender and darkened, stirring occasionally. This might take as little as 45 minutes or as long as a couple of hours, depending on the type of pears, how juicy they are, the pan you use and how hot the fire.

When mincemeat is done, pack into pint jars, seal and process 30 minutes in boiling water bath canner.

1. I chop everything in batches in the food processor. If you do that, be sure to leave the fruit in little chunks. You don't want it to be puréed.

2. Normally this is canned, but today I packed it in quart bags for the freezer. All my canning equipment is at the farm and we are in town.
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Martha said...

I grew up with a pear tree as well -- pear honey was what my mother always made with the fruit. It was a HUGE tree and I think it must have been a Kiefer -- for my memories of the fruit look like the pictures you posted.

Thanks for bringing back memories.

Enjoy the mincemeat!

Becky said...

Thanks Martha. Our tree is also huge. My grandmother used to make Pear Honey, too. I've got her recipe, and if I am able, I intend to make a batch of that this fall.

Do you know how your Mom made Pear Honey? I'd love to compare recipes.

Becky said...

Forgot to say, my grandmother also made a lot of pear preserves and plain canned pears.

Martha said...

I don't have a clue about her pear honey -- could you share your recipe?


Becky said...

I'll be glad to share the recipe, but it will have to be when I get back to the farm. All my canning and preserving recipes and equipment are there. We are hoping to go this weekend.

When I was a little girl, her Pear Honey was my favourite topping for toast and biscuits. Now I find it tastes too sweet to me. It has lemon in it, but I am planning to add more. The tartness should help cut the sweet. I will let you know how that works out.

Nicole said...

I bet the house smells just wonderful when making this!