Garden Friday: Preserving the Harvest

As I alluded to in my last post, I have been pretty busy putting up the summer’s harvest. This is something I really haven’t done in several years and frankly, it doesn’t really mesh too well with an academic schedule.  But, it is what it is.

About 2 years ago, we moved to San Francisco.  We thought the move was permanent; obviously it was not.  SF has a lot of wonderful food things going on (hello Rainbow Co-op and our neighborhood organic fruit/veggie stand down the street that carried ‘seconds’ from local farms), but space for storage was not one of them.  For the record, our little flat in the Sunset had more room than most, but I considered tossing most of our Christmas ornaments because past the large built in kitchen pantry and 4 shelves in the garage, we didn’t have much space.  The multi-generation Mormon I am meant I had some sort of food storage. I carved out a kitchen table nook where two sides were a bench made from 5-gal buckets filled with various grains; I put gallons of earthquake water under the bed.  But mostly we just ate produce from the veggie stand and thanked our lucky stars that local meant a long season in CA.

I digress.  The whole point above is that I sold off all of my canning jars upon moving to SF.  Last summer, we moved back to the PNW – no canning going on during the move.  This summer, I knew I wanted to do some, but wasn’t sure what or when.  I grabbed some small jam/jelly jars at the beginning of the summer for our U-pick strawberries.  But jars are expensive.  I looked on Craigslist but no luck.  Leave it to my hippy city to have a high demand for these sort of things.  So I just waited.

And then I noticed the 2 fruit trees of our new home.  You know, the ones I assumed (with delight) were cherries in early spring because they were little round fruits in clusters and it obviously was not a crab apple tree.  Yeah.  Not cherries.  Turns out (and this should be a surprise given the previous owners were Vietnamese) I have 2 different Asian pear trees.  Yuck.  Now I like pears; I like apples.  But I like a soft, juicy pear and a crisp, tart apple.  Asian pears are neither.  Plus, I couldn’t figure out when to expect them to ripen since I didn’t know what cultivar they were, etc.

Well, I came home from a 3 week vacation 2 weeks ago and these pears were obviously ripe having drastically changed color in less than 3 weeks time.  Had to do something, so I decided to try a batch of pear sauce.  I sent away for the fruit strainer for my Kitchen Aid (Amazon has the best price), picked up a case of pint jars, and started picking.

It is super easy to make pear sauce… it is just like apple sauce.  Fill a stock pot up with quartered pears and 2 inches of water at the bottom.  Simmer for 40 minutes.  Pour through the strainer (takes me less than 30 minutes for a whole stock pot), fill jars when done and steam or water bath process according to applesauce times.  I add no sugar.  A stock pot takes about 30 minutes to strain and makes about 7 pints.  I also saved the leftover juice and canned it this year because we will have a infant starting (homemade) cereal next summer before the next season of pears is available; organic pear and apple juice is expensive!

(As an aside, I highly recommend the fruit strainer if you already have a Kitchen Aid mixer.  You also have to have the meat grinder for it to work, but it does work well.  From reading reviews, don’t send blackberries through it as it will break the strainer cone.  Also, don’t get attachment happy and get a wheat grinder attachment…. I’ve sent 2 Kitchen Aid machines for repair doing that!)

Anyhow, it turns out that pear sauce is not my favorite either.  I like apple sauce, but pear sauce has a tiny bit of grit.  My preschooler, however, LOVES it.  Inhales it.  I only have a case of pints even though I’ve now done 3 batches (21 pints if anyone is counting) because he ate it for every meal for about a week.  (If your kids are inhaling it, just put it in the fridge in an old peanut butter glass jar and skip the processing part.)  I’ll probably pick the last of the pears this weekend and get another couple pints put away after the pear monster eats most of it again.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with the project.  Even though I had to purchase the pints, the fruit was free to me and my kid likes it.  And apparently I’ve found a reasonable use for food that will be available to me every September for the foreseeable future.

Have you been forced to preserve something out of your favorites due to a ‘surprise’ harvest?  How did it turn out?

Edited to add: Apparently our commenter Sarah is correct.  Asian pears are considered a low acid fruit like figs & tomatoes; current recommendations are to add lemon juice or another acid.  I did not because I did not follow a recipe since we are a no-sugar no-spice added apple/pear sauce house.  I will in the future so I can eat it straight out of the jar.  Until then, I am trying to find a master canner with a calibrated pH meter to see where my trees fall.  Until that happens, I will do what I do to tomato ‘sauce’ – pureed tomato with nothing added – to which I do not add acid (a big modern no no, but I’ve eaten thousands of jars over my lifetime prepared this way): boil the sauce 10 minutes prior to eating to kill all of the toxin off.  In other words, if you don’t add acid to your  tomato or Asian pear sauce, never eat it straight out of a jar without fully reheating.

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7 responses to “Garden Friday: Preserving the Harvest

  1. mfranti September 30, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Nicole,

    I was supposed to be finishing a paper last night but I HAD to put up the remaining peaches sitting in my kitchen and collecting fruit flies. Harvest time and school DO NOT go well together.

    I’m so behind in everything. My husband doesn’t understand why I didn’t finish my schoolwork. I don’t understand why he doesn’t understand why a whole years worth of blood, sweat and tears isn’t important enough to make the stupid paper wait.

  2. mfranti September 30, 2011 at 9:09 am

    So what you’re saying is I should stay away from Asian pears. Gotcha!

  3. Nicole I September 30, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Well, if you like them, get them. But I think people either love them or hate them.

    And yes, school years (as they currently are constructed) and harvest do not play well together!

  4. Sarah Firkins October 1, 2011 at 9:02 am

    You’re gonna hate me or thank me, not sure which, but did you check canning requirements on the asian pears before you started? They’re low enough in acid that they need to be acidified before canning.

    We’re in throws of harvest too. There’s big push in berry season, but now my 5 (!) apple trees are turning. My kitchen is gonna look like an apple hurricane. I love apples and their products. What I’m not happy about is that we never managed to get out an put traps on the trees for coddling moths, nor did we spray for apple scab. And no thinning when the fruit came on. So instead of pretty apples to make into dried apple slices and canned apple pie filling, I’ll be cutting up ugly, scaly, buggy apples and making sauce, butter and fruit leather.
    I’m trying to be grateful for what I have.

  5. Alliegator October 1, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    We have an asian pear tree. I tried making sauce one year, and didn’t like it. I’m going to try slicing and dehydrating the few fruits on the tree this year.

    I just finished making a batch of applesauce from our tiny crop (it’s been a bad fruit year for most things).

    I also made a batch of plum jam, and pear/plum jam (our regular pear tree did fairly well, as did the plum tree). I’m now debating whether to can the rest of the pears or sauce them. I’m leaning toward sauce since it’s so much less work.

    I have an old victorio strainer. The only other thing to do is put more plums in the dehydrator. Then maybe I’ll get a few weeks break before it’s time to do grape juice…

  6. Nicole I October 2, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Sarah, thanks for pointing that out. There is not a lot of Asian pear info out there; I did not add acid and will adjust my current consumption and future processing accordingly. See my edit in the post.

    Alliegator – I’m not a huge fan of dehydrated fruit, but maybe a I should think about it now that I have this endless supply of Asian pears.

  7. Alliegator October 2, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I don’t love all dehydrated fruit. I like our italian prunes dehydrated, and I LOVE nectarines, and bananas.

    I’m not sure about asian pears, but since I don’t love them regularly, I figure it can’t be any worse. 🙂

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