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Clear memories of delicious pear preserves
Liberty lore
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One day, as a child, I asked my mother, “Mama, how do you make pear preserves?”
She answered, “Just pour some sugar over the pears, add some water and cook until they are preserved.”
This was the typical answer I got from adults whenever I asked how they did something. They just did it.
Mama always made a batch of the best pear preserves I have ever tasted just before school started each year. She even added coconut to a few jars. On the first day of school, she made sandwiches using the preserves for our lunches. Heck, we certainly didn’t know preserves are supposed to be eaten on toast. Anyway, we did not have such fancy things as toast or bacon at our house. We had to eat those old homemade biscuits and sliced smoked ham from the smokehouse each day. We could not splurge on things like loaves of bread. So, we grew up thinking that pear preserves were supposed to be made in August just for school sandwiches.
I am one of those cooks who needs exact measurements when it comes to making jellies, preserves and cakes — until I have made a recipe often enough to memorize the ingredient amounts.
Well, August came this year and the two pear trees in my yard in Allenhurst were bursting with pears. I vowed that I would not let them go to waste. I got the Blue Ball Book Guide to Home Canning and Freezing down from the shelf and turned to a recipe for pear preserves. It was as close to my mama’s recipe as I could get. Now, as all good country cooks know, it is not worth the trouble to cook a tiny batch of jelly or preserves. So, I took a pencil and multiplied and divided and added until I came up with the appropriate recipe for a big batch of pear preserves.
For all you new cooks who are trying to learn the exact way to make pear preserves, just keep reading and I’ll share my secrets with you. By the time I am finished, you will probably decide to just buy a jar of Mrs. Brazell’s pear preserves at your favorite grocery store.
I took a tub and went to the two dwarf pear trees that I planted 11 years ago. In drizzling rain, I picked every pear on those trees. I had a full tub and a half. Once you have collected your pears, this is how you proceed:
First, wash the pears before taking them inside to keep from making a mess.
Next, fill a dishpan full of cold water and pour a half cup of lemon juice in it to keep the sliced pears from turning dark. Get a sharp paring knife and a bucket for the cores and peelings. I always like to sit on a stool at the table to peel the pears and put them into the water. When you are finished peeling, slice the pears into thick slices and throw the cores away. Do not bother cutting the pears in half as that is too time consuming. Pears are plentiful and the squirrels will enjoy the scraps.
You should have a pan full of slices when finished. Now, get a two-quart measuring pitcher, measure the slices in it and pour them into a large, thick-bottomed pot. Hold your hand over the spout and drain the water out of the pitcher before putting the pears in the pot. If you do not have a large, thick-bottomed pot, don’t even bother making preserves. You should have four pitchers heaped full or 32 cups of pears.
Pour 16 cups of sugar over the pears. You also may add a half cup of bottled lemon juice. Mix the sugar and pears well. Let them sit about an hour until the sugar is absorbed.
Lift the heavy pot and place it on a large stove burner. Cook the sugared pears on high for about 30 minutes, stirring often. Turn the burner to medium-high and stir every once in a while for the next hour and a half — keep an eye on that pot. The recipe never tells how long it will take. The longer they cook, the thicker they will get. The white pear slices will turn a pretty amber color and become translucent.
When I made my preserves, I forgot to stir the pears during the last 30 minutes of cooking. They ran all over my stove, leaving me a sticky mess to clean up.
After about two hours, the concoction probably will be thick enough. Turn the stove off and wait until the next day to do anything else, which will give the pears time to “plump.” Mama never did this, but it is what the recipe book says to do.
After 24 hours, round up 12 pint jars, new lids and screw rings. Keep a few extra ones clean and on hand in case they are needed. Put the clean jars and tops in very hot water and leave until you’re ready to fill them. Fill the water bath canner about half full and get it boiling while you are finishing the pears.
Turn the heat on the pears again and skim off any of the white foam that may be on top. Now, you will have to watch the pot very carefully to keep the preserves from scorching, which would ruin all your hard work. It will take about 20 minutes to get them boiling again.
Set your jars in a pan by the preserve pot and get a ladle and a wide-mouth funnel ready. Be sure you turn off the stove because nothing will stick to your skin like hot, popping preserves. Fill the jars carefully to the neck. Screw the lids on as tightly as you can, holding each jar with a dishcloth.
My canner holds seven jars so I place the jars on the rack and lower it into the pot of boiling water. Make sure the water covers the jars about an inch over the top. Put the lid on the pot. Process the jars of preserves for 15 minutes in the hot water. Very carefully, lift the rack out and do not let the steam burn you. Set the jars on a clean dry dishcloth and do not bother them for 12 hours. Repeat the process with the other jars in the canner.
Put one jar of preserves in the refrigerator to eat for breakfast with hot biscuits or toast. If they are good enough for you to eat, they will be good enough to give as gifts to special people.
Another thing I have learned is that no two batches turn out exactly alike. Different varieties of pears turn out different varieties of preserves. Liberty County used to be famous for the LeConte pear. Pears from this county were shipped to all parts of the United States. There still are a few of the old pear trees on some area farms. The Martins in Flemington used to grow many LeConte pears.
You know, I wonder if the pear preserves of my childhood really were as good as I recall or, perhaps, I just have some well-“preserved” memories!
Here’s the “condensed” version of my pear preserves recipe:
32 heaping cups sliced pears
16 cups sugar
½ cup lemon juice
Mix pears, sugar and lemon juice. Let sit until sugar is absorbed in a thick-bottomed pot. Cook, stirring often, until pears are golden, about two hours. Turn the heat off and let the pears sit overnight. Reheat and cook until thicker, if desired. Jar up and seal. Place jars in hot water bath canner and boil for 15 minutes.

Love is a history buff and writes Liberty lore periodically for the Courier.
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