September 24, 2012

Barter and fill the pantry!

This summer we decided to sell at a local farmer's market. We weren't able to make it every week but it was a good experience.  Towards the end, a gentleman approached me with some Asian pears. He had a tree in his backyard that he did not spray and asked if I'd sell his pears for him and split the profits.  Sure, why not! I'm sitting there anyways and I'm a supporter of buying local, obviously.  No point in letting all that fruit go to waste.

I ended up giving him all the money in exchange for some pears.  The first batch of pears mysteriously disappeared after the dogs opened the fridge door and had some fun.  The second batch immediately went into the kitchen, were peeled, diced and turned into jam.

I have 8 or 9 pints of pear jam that will be Christmas presents for teachers and family. Homemade, locally grown, chemical free.  Just a smidge of love added. All it cost me was some time and kindness.

When you approach a farmer's market, think outside the box. You never know when a farmer is willing to barter. Their hard work and product is definitely worth the money in your pocket, but you might have a skill or product that they could use.  Just ask!

Asian Pear Jam

1 doz Asian pears, peeled and diced small
1 c. brown sugar
4 c. sugar
2 packages liquid pectin
water, water, water
1/4 t. black pepper (yes, pepper!)
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. allspice
1/4 c. lemon juice

I kind of just toss in the spices and taste until I like what I'm tasting.

Put the pears, brown sugar, some water and lemon juice in a pot and let the pears start cooking down. They will soften and get mushy but never really fall apart like apples do.  Keep adding water so that it doesn't thicken up too much. I left the pears covered and stirred often.  Add your spices and let them cook in.  You could also add cardamon, cinnamon, poppyseeds or any other seasoning that catches your eye.

The pears should be soft but still have a decent amount of liquid in them.  Puree and add water until you have the consistency of loose applesauce, pour it all back into the pot.  Be very careful! This is a thick liquid and will start bubbling and spurting. It's very easy to get burned so have a strainer on top or a lid.  Remember, this should be pretty watery.

Add the sugar, let it come to a boil.  Add the pectin.  Let it come back to a boil and boil until it's thick.  BE VERY CAREFUL!!!!  I never get this part right and my jams and jellies are always very loose so if you know the right steps for adding the sugar and pectin, do that. Don't listen to me because I seriously have no clue when it comes to making jams and jellies thicken up.

Once you get it thick, can that stuff!  The brown sugar could be replaced with molasses for a deeper flavor and richer color.

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