I have a new piece up over here, if you are of a mind to read it.
Meanwhile, our cavalcade of apples continues unabated. "I have never in my life seen so many apples," said my sister, who has seen a lot of apples. Mind you I am not complaining about the apples, though I am a little tired.
Are you making lots of pies? ask innocent persons who don't deserve a black eye. Pies. Indeed. WHO HAS TIME TO MAKE A PIE? Sometimes there is a dessert emergency when I am making applesauce or apple chutney or dried apples or apple juice or something else made of apples, and then I whip a pan of baked apples through the production line.
Those are tasty. I toss them with butter or olive oil, or a combination, and some sugar, or coconut sugar, or maple syrup, and maybe some hot pepper or lemon zest or something like that which is sitting still near to hand, and then I roast the little dears. They are heaven with some cinnamon whipped cream, or some Greek yogurt, or ice cream, or on your oatmeal.
Cinnamon whipped cream--in case you are wondering--consists of half creme fraiche, half heavy cream and a dash each of maple syrup and cinnamon, whipped to soft peaks. That stuff is also good on your elbow or a gym sock, in case you are searching for other uses. If you are feeling belt-conscious, you can sub Greek yogurt for the creme fraiche; just fold it into the softly-whipped cream.
In between the big heaped-up bushels of apples that continue to line up on the porch, smaller baskets of pears snake their way into the kitchen. Sometimes I put up jars of poached pears, but that activity is generally best reserved for times when a person is not stuck in the AppleVornado. It's fussy work. So I was pretty attuned the merits of this recipe from the canning goddess Marisa, and when it morphed and reappeared over here, my ears really pricked up. That one used more pears, among its other undeniable merits.
Sometimes I just cannot leave well enough alone, so I tinkered a little further. The resulting substance won't do your toast any harm, and if there is something better to eat on Greek yogurt, or your (or someone else's) elbow, at the moment I cannot think of what it might be.
Caramelizing the sugar seems like a fussy extra step, primarily because it is a fussy extra step, and you could certainly skip it. But it really isn't hard and the payback is worth the 8 minute detour, especially since 6 of those minutes are idle ones. One taster was heard to comment, "there seem to be about twelve levels of complexity going on here." The darkened sugar can take credit for that.
If you are not of the canning mindset, rest assured a pot of this will be dispatched easily in the course of one week, especially if that week involves either dinner guests or feeling sorry for oneself.
chocolate pear jam
- 3# of firm-ripe pears
- 5T bottled lemon juice
- 1.5 cups granulated sugar
- 30g crystallized ginger, finely chopped
- 2T good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 oz 70% or higher pure dark chocolate (be sure it is free of milk solids)
Divide your pears: with about 2# of them, you are going to quarter and core them, but leave the peels in place. With the remaining 1# of them, peel, core and dice.
Toss the diced pears in a small bowl with the lemon juice, and set aside.
Put the quartered pears in a heavy pot, along with about half a cup of water. Bring them to a simmer, then cover the pot and cook until the pears are thoroughly soft. Attack them with an immersion blender until you have a smooth puree. Keep the puree on a low flame and stir it occasionally while you attend to the sugar.
Place the sugar and another 1/4 c water in a small, heavy sauce pan. Swirl to combine, and then bring to a low boil. Continue to cook over medium heat, or whatever setting on your burner gives you that nice, low boil, without stirring, for about 8 minutes or until you see a deep amber color when you dab a little spoonful on a plate. A gorgeous aroma is another good signal that things are ready. You don't need to watch it very carefully until the last few minutes, when you need to watch it like a hawk, so you don't go beyond amber to ebony, which happens in a trice at that stage.
As soon as that nice color is achieved, pour the contents of the pot into the pear puree. It will make fearsome noises for a few seconds, and you should use all available caution and attention to keep your eyeballs well out of the line of eruption. Stir the sugar in, and cook at a steady simmer, stirring often until the mixture begins to thicken. The timing will vary with the water content of your pears, but plan on about 15-30 minutes. If you are canning it, this is a good time to get the water going in the canning kettle and the jars and other equipment all lined up.
Add the reserved diced pears and lemon juice to the pot, as well as the ginger, and keep cooking and stirring until the pear pieces are tender and the consistency is looking good for jam, or for your liking, probably another 15 minutes. Add the cocoa and the chocolate and stir until it is well-combined. Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/2" head space, secure two-piece canning lids; process 10 minutes and remove to a towel-lined countertop to cool.
Yield is about 3 pints, which you will undoubtedly want to put up in smaller jars.