Saturday, 17 September 2011

Beetroot and pears

I didn't appreciate before I started to grow food on a reasonably large scale - domestic scale still, but lots of it - that there is no stage between the one where you get excited about the three real pears on your little pear tree, bring them inside to a bowl on the kitchen table, feel them gently every day as they ripen (pears ripen much better inside than on the tree), finally eat one in ecstacy, the juice running deliriously down your chin, and the stage where you are bringing them inside in buckets.


How can this be?  It was the same with the damsons and the plums so I suspect our gloriously warm and dry spring (do you remember?) was just what the fruit crop wanted.  The same holds true for vegetable crops of course.  One day you are cutting your first beans and eating them simply dressed with butter and drooling at their deliciousness.  The next you are wilting slightly in the face of trugs full of the things marching into the kitchen, each bean as long and thick as your arm and about as appetising.

Oddly, the pears that came inside in buckets have not ripened on the kitchen table but remain stubbornly hard and unyielding.  The answer to what to do with a bucket of rock hard pears came, as preserving answers so often do, from Pam Corbin's River Cottage Preserves book.  I have all sorts of preserving books: a Women's Institute one which I have had for ever and is good on the basics; one by Marguerite Patten who, at ninety three, has been teaching people how to cook seasonally and frugally since the second world war and who knows everything, and a new, gloriously illustrated, one by Thane Prince with an unusual modern touch.  I love them all but if I had to choose only one to keep it would be the River Cottage book.  Pam Corbin knows so much and shares all the little tips and touches you only know as a result of years spent over the preserving pan.  But the recipes are lively and interesting too and the whole book is beautifully written.  It is not possible to flip through the book without coming up with half a dozen things you fancy trying.

I went for the Mulled Spiced Pears.


You peel the pears and keep them in very slightly salted water to stop them browning.  Each pear half is studded with two or three cloves.  You make a syrup with water, cider and sugar and pack the pears into jars, each jar with a stick of cinnamon in it.  Top the jars up with the syrup, lower but don't secure the lids, and let the jars stand in an oven at about 150 degrees for around an hour.


When they come out, secure the lids and leave until they are absolutely cold.  You will need to check that the seals are tight the next day before putting them away on a shelf in the larder.  They will keep for about a year.  We might have some at Christmas with dark chocolate sauce and thick cream.

While I have been doing this in the front kitchen where the cooking now takes place, Ian has been moving on with the back kitchen, soon to become the scullery/utility.


Look, look!  The new slate floor!  Soon it will meet up with the old slate floor in the front kitchen.  The front kitchen is in the old part of the house and each of the well worn slates is around 5 feet long and 3 feet wide.  Heaven knows how thick they are and heaven knows how they were lifted into the house but they have been down for hundreds of years and will no doubt stay there for another few hundred.  The new slate in the 1980s extension matches the old slate perfectly for colour if not for size!

It's all happening up on the hill.

Whoops.  I forgot to tell you about how to make beetroot (hated taste and texture of my childhood) irresistibly delicious.


29 comments:

  1. That looks good :-) I have some conference left, will give it ago

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  2. Your spiced pears look delicious!! I always enjoy reading your posts!

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  3. Zoe - conference would be ideal!
    Linda - thank you. Made for sharing I think!

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  4. It's time for pears on this side of the pond, too. Though we're not quite as ambitious as you are.

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  5. I am just back from Wales,
    that extraordinary place.
    How many trees full of fruit.
    Angela

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  6. Mulled spiced pears sounds delicious and any beetroot ideas would be very welcome as we have them ranging from tennis to football size at the moment!

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  7. It says something about the state of my house and to-do list at present that I got more thrills from seeing the scullery than the pears.... slate floors! wall sockets! the name - scullery/utility! How exciting it looks!

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  8. Those pears sound delicious, I may have to come over and try them!

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  9. Rob - truly not ambitious. Quite easy if you have the kit!
    Angela - it has been a fabulous season for fruit here this year. I have so much I don't know what to do with it!

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  10. Those preserved pears look so...um, the word poetic comes to mind (as often does to me when thinking about garden produce). I will hold onto the irresistible thought of eating them with dark chocolate sauce and thick cream; but why wait until Christmas?

    I am mad about beetroot after a childhood of never touching the stuff for my father stubbornly disliked them. Beetroot soup with a glug of cider vinegar and cream is fantastic.

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  11. I find myself buying bunches of beets whenever I go to the market. We love them hot, cold, pickled or in soup. It's not a taste from my childhood, but one I have come to love as an adult.

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  12. I used to hate beetroot, but I love it grated raw in salads. And I know that feeling of glut, and the feeling of what do we do with it all. Keeping pigs is good - they love anything crunchy from the garden which is too much for us. And I have to say that I love pears hard and crunchy, much nicer than overripe and soft!

    Pomona x

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  13. The pears look lovely! I used to hate beetroot but am quite enthusiastic now - but not in soup, I can't bear that...I'm useless at growing it so I never have a glut.

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  14. I am new to blogging and loving it. Its sunday afternoon and i am reading your blog with a cuppa, i almost feel i am having a little break in wales! I have to get back to realitiy in a while and prepare dinner. lovely pics.

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  15. I love the word scullery - I can hear my nan saying it in her Lincolnshire accent when reading it here.

    I'm a big fan of Pam Corbin's book too - one of the very few that has an honoured place in my kitchen cupboard so that it's always to hand. The other cookbooks (the ones not honoured) are in the bookcase in the dining room, which currently has an assortment of doors in front of it. As these have been there for over a year, you can guess how often these get used!

    So sorry not to have come and visited today, so I thought I'd visit you virtually instead. I hope to see you for real next month :)

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  16. I too have a enormous amount of pears this year, at moment they are still on the trees.
    At harvest I shall wrap each one in newspaper and put them in my warm loft to ripen. Then run them through the juicer and then put the juice into a small barrel and make perry.

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  17. I'm not waiting or an invite for Christmas, I'm just turning up! Sounds too delicious to miss.

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  18. Ooo, I love beetroot so I'll hold you to your promise of a recipe or two.

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  19. I'm with you on River Cottage Preserves, my friend in times of need and unbelievable glut.

    (The old Farmhouse Kitchen books are good too, but I've still got about 60 kilos of apples to deal with... you must have even more!)

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  20. Pears always remind me of this Eddie Izzard stand up routine (about 4.30 in - and I've no idea why it's subtitled in German.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jSE3JANx14) x

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  21. What a brilliant recipe for pears. Will have to give this a go especially as my mind is wandering towards Christmas already...

    Emma Phillips
    Our site:
    Girls Coats

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  22. Gorgeous, gorgeous pears - and even more beautiful slate floor! I can taste those pears, I swear it... I'm thinking of them served over vanilla ice cream... ahhhhhhhh!

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  23. Your spiced pears look delicious . There's a cooking pear popular in Holland .... hard as stones , which are poached for hours in water with cloves and some sugar added half way through .They smell wonderful while cooking and go a beautiful deep pink . Good to eat with vanilla ice cream .... though here they're eaten with meat .( Euuugh!)
    The only thing I've got a glut of , at the moment , is chervil .

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  24. Damo - I am struggling with the idea of football sized beetroot!
    Rachel - I do have to admit to you that the slate floor sets my heart racing!

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  25. Alison - come over. We have pears, we have beetroot, we have chard! And perhaps more excitingly we have cheese scones and chocolate cake!
    Millefeuilles - I am intrigued by your beetroot soup. I might have to try that.

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  26. Pondside - I think I am with you. As an adult I am coming to like beetroot. I always liked pears mind you!
    Pomona - I am deeply attracted by the idea of pigs. That would revolutionise my life!

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  27. Geranium cat - I am with you on beetroot soup. Not for me.
    One day at a time - thank you and welcome. Croeso I Gymru!

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  28. Thank you for the pear bottling post- I've been wondering what to do with a bag of pears I've been given- now I know!

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  29. Your place looks absolutely wonderful. I live in West Wales but i was up in the North for a few days last week to climb Snowdon and have a wander about in different surroundings. I have a herb and alpine nursery down here in Cardigan www.grown-inwales.co.uk

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