Barely an hour before I found myself taking an un-planned ambulance ride, I was busily exploring Summit Trading Company in Tukwilla, WA. One of the members of one of my Yahoo canning groups (who lives south of Seattle) turned me onto the store a couple of weeks ago, and I love them already. In addition to having a wide selection of international foods–many I’ve been hunting for, and others I can’t wait to try–they also do a bunch of “buy 10-pound” deals each week, where you can get some pretty steep discounts on a variety of foods. In fact, their website is http://10lbsormore.com
On this last trip, I bought:
- 10+ pounds of almost-ripe bananas, destined for more banana nut bread jam, for $0.39/lb … a savings of $0.50/lb
- 10+ pounds of mostly green Bartlett pears, which I planned to keep until they were ripe enough to can, for $0.79/lb … a savings of $0.50/lb
- 10+ pounds of chicken drummettes, destined for canning jars and various sauces, for $1.69/lb … a savings of more than $1.00/lb over the cheapest I found anywhere that week!
In other words, they’re a great place for a canner like me to shop
However, as I said in my last post … my plans were suddenly changed on me … so my drummettes ended up in my neighbor’s freezer, where they’ll stay till I get a chance to work on them. Likewise, I was able to take my bananas–VERY ripe and freckled by the time I finally made it home–and shove them into the tiny remaining spaces in my own freezer. Phew, two down … one to go!
The pears were a different sort of problem. By the time I got home, they were perfectly yellowed and ripe … but I wasn’t in any shape to do anything with them right that second … so they went with me to Ladies Day … with a plan in mind.
I decided to make a favorite of mine, and of one of the other ladies in the group: stuffed pears, wrapped in pastry
I started out by picking the best nine pears out of the bag, since–when you combine all of our families together–we have nine people in total. In other words, I took it as an opportunity to not only make the ladies happy … but to make their families happy, too!
I used a sharp paring knife to barely remove any spot that was getting too brown, but I left as much of the peel intact that I could, since it was just as soft and tasty as the rest of the pear!
In a small bowl, I created my stuffing by mixing:
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup dried blueberries
- 1/4 cup rough-chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 teaspoon concentrated lemon juice
Once all the ingredients went into the bowl, I made sure they were well-mixed before I continued.
With my dressing ready, I opened a couple of boxes of pre-packaged, refrigerated and roll-out pie crusts, and then cut them into one-inch strips. They’re easy to find. Check in the butter section of your local grocery store. Pillsbury makes one, plus most grocery store chains offer the same sort of product in their own signature brand, too. Of course–if you’re more interested in taste and texture than time (and–right now for me–I don’t need to be standing too long at any one time)–you can always make your own crust. Needless to say, homemade crust would taste ten times better (at least!) … but the premade crusts work, too …. and, for me today … preparation speed was more important.
From there, I started stuffing my pears. The best way to show you how I managed it is to show you a video:
… but if you just want to read the highlights:
- cut the top off of the pear, keeping the meat and the stem intact. Set aside.
- split the pear in half from top to bottom.
- scoop/cut out the seeds and the thready/woody stem section.
- place a spoonful of stuffing into each pear half
- shove the two halves back together
- wrap a strip of dough around the entire pear to hold it together
- place the cap/stem part back on top
- then wrap more strips of dough around the pear, gradually covering the entire thing
- seal all the openings in the dough with your fingers/hands (warm hands help the dough seal better) … but try not to mash all the flake out of your crust
- sprinkle a little sugar on top of the completed pear
- bake at 400 degrees for approx. one hour, or until the pastry crust is browned nicely
Viola! Our pears
If I was only making 2-4 of these, I probably would have cooked them in individual ramekins. I have a set of four 4-inch ones that would have been perfect … but–in the interest of doing a LOT of them at one time–I just used a cookie sheet to hold them all. Yes, they do look kinda lumpy. Consider them rustic … and–just remember–you can make them look as pretty as you want them to. In the past, I’ve made sure that my homemade crust was solid and smooth across the expanse of the pear … to the point that you couldn’t see the seams: even after it was baked. In the past, I’ve also brushed them with egg whites or butter, and/or sprinkled sugar or cinnamon all over them. I’ve even gone so far as to cut out little pastry leaves to press on up beside the stem, too, just to make them extra beautiful on the presentation side. However, considering what I’ve just been through physically and emotionally–and how many of them I decided to make, too, attempting to enjoy those pears and share them with my friends and their families, rather than lose them–I didn’t necessarily spend as much time putting these together as I might have normally. Shoot me
Finally, here’s our pears after spending an hour in a 400 degree oven.
Doesn’t that look just positively yummy?
As you can see, they did ooze a little pear and sugar juice on the cookie sheet, but they are completely intact and ready to serve after a 10-minute rest. Just be sure you loosen the pears from the cookie sheet (a sharp metal spatula works best) before they cool too much, or you may tear them to pieces trying to get them off of the cookie sheet. Of course, a sheet of parchment paper would have probably been smarter here … but I just didn’t think about it in advance.
They’re especially inviting when you break them open, and expose all of that delicious stuffing. They smell amazing!
But wait! There’s more
My friends–who so graciously allow me to throw food and dishes all over their kitchens on a regular basis … one who calls me the Portable Chef–always have excellent ideas, too. In fact, as the pears were baking and filling the entire house with the smell of yumminess … the friend whose house we were at this time–a friend who was born in England, and immigrated to this country as a teenager–asked if we’d like her to make a classic British addition to our pears: Custard Sauce!
How could we turn that down?
She makes her custard sauce the traditional way: using Bird’s Custard Powder, the favorite choice of most Brits … and quite a few other people, too! It’s also quick and easy to make: mix milk and powder together in the proportions outlined on the label, then bring it to a boil. Voila! Custard sauce!
Added to the pears, pastry, and stuffing … the warm custard sauce was the absolute perfect topping. In fact, it helped with the one problem I found in this batch: I used store-brand (QFC) pie crusts, and they just tasted kinda blah/biscuitty … not as flakey and crusty as the Pillsbury version, or even the Safeway store brand version. They’re both pretty tasty … but this one is just okay … so the custard sauce helped to cover that small imperfection a bit … and bring a whole new dynamic to the dish
Oh, and … postscript
Remember last week, when my Tuesday attempt to make English muffins for the ladies didn’t turn out nearly as well as I know I can make them … so I made them again on Thursday for them? Well, after trying these … and listening to me complain about the QFC version of the crusts (and how they are just NOT as good as the others I’ve tried) … one of my friends said “Now, Lane … I know what a perfectionist you are. I guess that means you’re making them for us again on Thursday, right?”
Humm? I’m beginning to sense a trend