It's funny how sometimes, no matter how strict of a list and schedule I make, life gets in the way. I may have several specific things planned for an evening, but it's no telling what might throw everything off kilter. Lately, what seems to happen is that my body will whine in protest, telling me that there's no way it can keep checking things off the list. I sometimes have to fight with all of my might to keep it from betraying me and taking a lengthy nap on the couch. Perhaps the remedy is that I need to slow down and take a minute (or an evening) to myself. I need to put aside everything work related and enjoy the little things I don't get to do often.
I think Jacqui's post about taking time for normal weekends really struck a chord. When you have a job (or jobs) that command all of your time, especially when you are partially or fully self employed, it's really hard to make time for you. I plan on doing a bit of that this weekend as the chilly weather blows in. Perhaps I'll have a cup of tea and enjoy these pears over a bit of oatmeal or yogurt while letting my mind and body have a rest.
Originally, these beautiful pears were destined to be roasted, or incorporated into a pie, but time was slipping away along with their ripeness. Since I already had my equipment out to make some applesauce, I decided to go ahead and can these beautiful pears in a spiced honey syrup. I can all the time for my shop and the market, so I figured it was about time to share a recipe that involves it. It's really not hard, but it requires a few pieces of inexpensive equipment. And, the bonus with this recipe is that after you have eaten the pears, you will have a lovely spiced honey syrup that you can use to drizzle over anything and everything. I'm dreaming about drizzling it over pancakes, tea, and yogurt, but the possibilities are endless.
Seckel Pears in a Spiced Honey Syrupnotes: don't be scared away by the detailed canning instructions. They are a bit wordy, but very simple. If they seem daunting, or you don't have the correct tools, you can always just place the jars in the fridge after filling them and make sure to consume them within a month or so. Also, this recipe is written to be made with honey. I would not suggest making it with other liquid sweeteners if you plan to can it. You can, however, make a simple syrup with sugar & water instead of the honey to make it completely vegan. Just combine 3 parts water to 1 part sugar for a light syrup and sub it in for the honey syrup.
8 or so seckel pears (enough to fill 2 quart jars)
4 cups filtered water
1 1/2 cups honey
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole star anise
6 cardamom pods
2 quart size mason canning jars with 2-piece lids (such as Ball or Kerr brand)
Start by scrubbing your pears very well in hot water and remove any stickers. Set them aside to dry.
Sterlilize the jars: You will need a large, deep stockpot (or a canning pot) to sterilize and process the jars in. If you don't have a rack that fits in the bottom of the pot, you can simply put a clean, folded kitchen towel or washcloth in the bottom so that the jars won't come into direct contact with the bottom of the pot. Once you do this, fill up the pot with water, then submerge the jars (without the bands/lids) in the pot. They should be completely covered. Turn the heat to high and bring the water in the pot to a boil. It will need to be at a full boil for at least 10 minutes for the jars to be sterilized. While the jars are sterilizing, wash the lids and bands in warm soapy water, then place the lids (not the bands) in a heat proof bowl. Set the bands on a clean kitchen towel to air dry. Once the jars have been sterilized, turn the heat down to medium and keep them warm in the pot until you need them.
Make the honey syrup: In a saucepan or pot, combine the water and honey and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat.
Fill the jars: when the jars are sterilized and the honey syrup is ready, remove both jars from the pot with a jar lifter and set them right side up on a kitchen towel. Pour a bit of the warm water from your pot over the reserved lids that you set aside in a heat proof bowl (this softens the seals). Fill each jar with the pears (I got 4 to fit in each), then put half of the spices in each jar. Carefully pour the honey syrup into the jars over the pears, making sure to leave a 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar (there should be a 1/2 inch between the top of the honey syrup and the top of the jar). Gently shake the jars to remove any excess air bubbles, being careful not to burn yourself. If shaking doesn't work, you can use a chopstick or a butter knife to gently stir the contents and remove the air bubbles. Once you have done this, remove the lids from the water, shake off the excess, and place each onto a jar. Screw the bands on so that they are just finger tight.
Process the jars: Carefully place the jars back into your canning pot and make sure they are completely submerged in the water, with at least one inch of water covering them. Turn the heat back up to high and bring the water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, you will need to process the jars in the boiling water for 25 minutes. Once the 25 minutes have passed, turn off the heat and carefully remove the jars. Place them onto a kitchen towel on the counter and leave them undisturbed as they cool. After one hour, check to make sure the jars have sealed. They have a round "button" in the center that should be depressed. If they have not sealed after one hour, refrigerate them immediately and consume within a month. If they have sealed, store them in a cool, dark place up to one year.
Makes 2 quarts.