Monday, July 28, 2014

Pears and Plums, Past Their Prime

When I was at the Hub near closing time on Friday, they had a whole bunch of badly bruised pears. So badly bruised they were dripping. Yuck! Since they wouldn’t make it to Monday, they were going to compost them, but I was sure there was something that could be done with them, so I brought them home with me. I brought home some nectarines, too, in the same condition.

I put the fruit in the fridge overnight while I tried to figure out what to do with it. I thought it was over-ripe, not just bruised, and that’s what I looked for on the internet. What to do with over-ripe pears and plums (because I thought that’s what the nectarines were until I cut into the first one).

There were several articles and posts online about using over-ripe fruit (I’ve included links to some of them below), but the most common use seems to be making jams and jellies, so that’s what I decided to do. Well, butters, actually. Pear butter and plum butter. 
Before straining pears

The pears I cut into fourths and put them, stems, seeds, peel and all, into my 4-quart slow cooker on low. I added about half a cup of water and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and left it for several hours, stirring it occasionally. I didn’t add any sugar because I figured that the over-ripe fruit was extra sweet to begin with. After about six hours, I turned it off and put it in the fridge to finish the next day.

The next day I ran the cooked pears through my China hat (known more formally as a chinois), which is an old-fashioned metal, cone-
shaped food mill.  You put something like cooked pears in it and then smush the pears through the tiny holes in the sides with a wooden cone-shaped pestle. It
Chinois or China hat

squeezes the pulp through and keeps the parts you don’t want, like the seeds and peel and stems, inside. The food mills that you can borrow from the Hub Tool Share program do the same thing. I was going to make pear butter, but decided to stop with pear sauce, instead. I added two cinnamon sticks and about a fourth of a teaspoon of almond extract but didn’t add any sugar. It turned out pretty good, considering that I rescued the pears from the compost bin!

After straining pears
There were only a few nectarines, so I cooked them on top of the stove. I did pretty much the same thing – quartered them, then put the whole fruit, including the pits and skin, into a big saucepan. I added a little bit of lemon juice and just a bit of water and cooked it over the lowest heat I could get, stirring it frequently so it wouldn’t burn. When the fruit was really soft, I fished out all of the pits, then put the pulp and skins in the blender. I processed it until it was really smooth, then put it back in the pan and cooked it some more, until it was really thick. It splattered something fierce, so I put a splatter guard over the top. It didn’t catch all of the splatters, but it helped.

Once the pear sauce and nectarine butter were done, I sterilized some jars, filled and sealed them, then processed them for 10 minutes in a water bath canner.

Pear sauce and nectarine butter

So what did I end up with? For the cost of two cinnamon sticks, a bit of almond extract and some lemon juice, I made three half pints of nectarine butter and three pints of pear sauce. The nectarine butter can be used like apple butter, though it's not as sweet. The pear sauce can be used like applesauce to make Pear Sauce Cake or Cookies or to replace some of the fat in baked goods. You can pour it over pancakes. It goes great with pork. You can eat it plain, like applesauce. Or you can make SPARKIN' PIE, so named because a girl once made it to impress her boyfriend, he proposed on the spot, and they lived happily every after.

And to think, all that yummy goodness from food that might otherwise be composted!
-Mary Anne-

Here are some resources for things to do with overripe fruit. My favorite comes from the first article - "Overripe peaches and plums can very quickly be pureed and used as a fruity filling for cakes and muffins.  Simply pour your cake mixture into the case, make a well and add the puree before baking.  The sponge will rise above the puree, encasing it and creating a rich and very fruity addition to your weekly baking repertoire." Or however often you bake at your house. 

What to do with Overripe Fruit - Culinary Arts 360

Top 10 Ways to Use Up Overripe Fruit - the kitchn

10 Things to Do With Overripe Fruit - Savvy Housekeeping

10 Ways to Use Extra or Overripe Fruits and Vegetables - The Purposeful Mom

Uses for Overripe Fruit - thrifty fun

Seven Ways to Enjoy Overripe Fruit - Divine Caroline

Delicious recipes using overripe fruit. A.K.A. kids can't complain about the "mushy part." - Cool Mom Picks

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