Sunday, September 23, 2007

This week's newspaper column

Anyone want a pear? How about a bagful?

They're organic, pesticide-free and currently taking up valuable counter space in my kitchen. As in all of it. I have to wrestle with precariously piled fruit just to set down a glass of water.

I've decided that the tree in our backyard is a complete freak of nature. Because despite its unassuming size, it yeilded about 300 pears this season. And I wish I could say I was exaggerating.

Even though our dog figured out how to snag the fruit off the tree himself and ate to his heart's content all summer; and even though 30 pears fell to the ground to rot or become critter food while we were on vacation recently; and even though I gave away grocery bags full of pears to my mom, grandma, mother-in-law, neighbors and co-workers, we still had four heaping bowls of pears in our kitchen as of last week.

And there's still some on the tree. (But it's pretty safe to assume that neither my husband nor I are even remotely motivated to haul out the stepladder to retrieve them.)

Not having the slightest clue about what to do with that many pears, they just sat in my kitchen taunting me. My head spun obsessing over the possibilities: pear pies, pear cobbler, warm pearberry sauce over vanilla ice cream, pear chutney, apple pear turnovers, pear pancakes, pear salad, spiced pears. Hell, throw a pear party.

It got so bad that I started dreaming about pears overtaking my life -- much like that episode of "I Love Lucy" where she's working at a chocolate factory and the treats start coming out faster and faster on the conveyor belt until she panics and starts cramming them into her mouth and shoveling them down her shirt.

I suddenly found myself considering that to be a reasonable solution.

During normal rational-thinking daylight hours, I revisited the recipe ideas. But the problem with all of them is that they take time. Not to mention ingredients that I don't have on hand. Well, not restaurant-sized vats of, anyway.

So I decided to try my hand at canning.

It seemed so easy: Just buy a few jars, cram some fruit into them and heat the metal lids until they seal. No sweat.

After going to a discount store to get what I needed, I stumbled upon an entire sprawling row of canning materials: jars of all sizes, special pots, jar holder tongs, boxes of confusing powdery mix, recipe books, sives and more.

Instead of realizing that I probably should've done more research, I simply purchased a few packs of jars and continued on my naive way. Who needs special equipment? For me, canning was merely a means to an end.

Well, after spending more than two hours hunched over my kitchen sink peeling and coring, I eventually figured out that I didn't have the metal contraption that would line my pot to prevent the glass jars from bursting. I also discovered the pesky little detail that even my biggest pot isn't deep enough.

Days later, when I finally had the time to get back to the store, all of those pears that I slaved over had turned to a disgusting brown mush in my refridgerator. Not even an entire grove of lemon juice could've prevented them from spoiling.

Thankfully my husband was smart enough not to say anything remotely close to resembling "I told you so." This probably was less out of thoughtfulness and more because he knows I would've gone out and bought 100 more pears just to prove I could do it.

So instead of getting mad as I shoveled the results of my botched experiment down the garbage disposal, I rationalized my way out of it.

Who wants all those cans sitting around anyway? It really doesn't solve the problem at all. I would've gone from a counter full of pears to a counter full of pears in jars. And if I'm just planning on giving them away anyway, why not save myself the frustration and skin welts and just hand them out in bags like I had been doing?

But in the back of my mind, I know I'll try again next year. I mean, I have the jars now.

Or maybe instead of investing in the rest of the canning equipment, I'll just buy a chainsaw.

10 comments:

Shalini said...

ohhhh... pear chutney sounds intriguing!

I had the same- well not so same, but a problem with bananas going black so often, well i heard about a lil EASY recipe for banana bread, and I made it.. the whole house smells so gooooood I want to eat it. BUt yeah if i had a banana tree, well there are only so many recipes that are easy, and i think a chainsaw would be a good solution as well.

Good luck with it next year!

gora_kagaz said...

haha...i think you should try selling them at your local farmer's market. and i'm only half-joking. who knows? although pear pie does sound delicious.

natalie said...

hey girlie!
you know i can, right? i've canned probably 25-30 DOZEN jars this summer (check some of 'em out at http://ntcooper528.etsy.com). you know, it used to be hard to find canning supplies, but i saw tons this summer at target, you can also get them at http://www.canningpantry.com/index.html , among other places. once you get one batch to turn out correctly, canning is sooooo addictive--and it brings me almost $2000 extra every year!! :-)
good luck and great article!
natalie.
www.xanga.com/nataliedeltagam

Emmy said...

i could take some pears off of your hands if you could take some tomatoes and (red or green) peppers off of mine! lol

Ray said...

OH HOW I HEART, "I LOVE LUCY!" REALLY I DO. ;o)

And I think you should just sell them. You make a profit and people get good tasting pears. Not to mention that the money could go to baby stuff.

You can buy baskets and just pile them in there. Then just wrap them up in a nice clear decorative wrapping paper, and add a bow. Then making flyers letting people know you're selling. People will come running.

I think...LOL!

Take care, Kelly.

chelsea said...

Save them for Halloween and make it into a game for kids. The more they throw at obnoxious neighbor's houses, the better! The older the pear the more points! Or you could donate them to a church or some place where refreshments are served. Its not like they'll say "oh, the hungry don't need more food...."

julie said...

If you ever want it, I have a recipe for pear crisp (or apple crisp) that you can make one serving at a time, or multiply for more servings. It's yummy. I made apple crisp with it last night..... mmmmmm.... apple crisp.

the plainsman said...

I ahve it on good word that home made pear brandy is good. Hic.

Jennifer said...

you could make homemade pear baby food! You'll have lots of uses for that in about 6 months... if gerber can make it keep that long, I'd imagine you can too?

Jenn & Jason said...

I love pears bring some of the firm ones to work.
If you want better pears next year, have Jer go out an pull at least two thirds off the tree and throw them away.
Just after they start to flesh out into fruit they will come off easily. This will allow the pears to grow a little bigger, be healthier and not so many to rot.