08 February 2010

Family recipe Monday: pears

It's a frosty Monday morning and I'm not happy about being an adult human instead of a hibernating bear. Hibernation sounds like a great idea right now. But I've warmed up with cinnamon tea and am off to face the day. Just don't ask me to be perky yet.

Gene will soon be posting a series of family recipes from the Hess-Shaffner side. These reflect a totally different heritage, pure Pennsylvania Dutch, and some are even older than any I've collected from my side of the tree.

In the meantime, I'm thinking about pears...

Pear preserves

1 quart thinly sliced pears
1 cup sugar per quart pears
Very thinly sliced lemon to taste
Water to cover

Cook over very low heat to right consistency.
 --Mrs. E. A. (Leo) Tipton

I am not sure who Mrs. Tipton was; I'm assuming that she was a family friend who shared her recipes (unlike some people we know, or have read about). I love the combination of exactitude on the slicing and heat, but vagueness on the consistency. Hint: cook this until the syrup coats a spoon, but the pear slices are still intact. You're making preserves, not jam, and these are lovely. The preserves will continue setting up in the jar as they cool. I'd use at least half a lemon per quart, and make sure that the water only just covers the pears. mmmm....
Pear honey
4 quarts ground pears
3 quarts sugar

Cook in pan over medium flame until pears are tender and juice is clear. Add 1 quart crushed pineapple--continue cooking 10 minutes.
 --Vada Brooks Johnson

Pineapple was another exotic fruit that transformed cooking in the dryland areas when it became available in stores. People put it in everything they could get away with, as I recall. The pears were ground with a hand mill/food mill. You could use a food processor for this, with no problems. Just don't overdo it--this should be a coarse grind.

A note on the recipe card itself: this is obviously a sheet from a scratch pad rather than a card. My grandmother and her mother wrote down recipes on any paper that was at hand, and my grandfather always had scratch pads from the businessmen he worked with as an architectural draftsman. This is a prime example. I think we need to do a little local research and find out what we have in our recipe papers from businesses that no longer exist. We could do a micro-history of the businesses in the area.

Finally, here is a preview of the Shaffner-Hess recipe files. Gene's mom Dolly was an ace cook and had the dietitian's degree to prove it. Her recipes are short, crisp and exact. More on her when Gene gets his recipes up.

Early American pear pie

Make pastry and line 9” pan. Fill with:

Pare and slice firm pears—6 cups. Mix ¾ cup sugar, 1 tsp nutmeg or cinnamon, 2 T flour. Mix through pears. Fill pie tin, dot with butter, cover with crust. Bake 425 [F] for 35-45 minutes.
--Dolly Shaffner Hess

Being a fan of eating produce in its season, I only have six or seven months to go before fresh pears are available. I'm ready for them right now. This is why hibernation would be such a great idea. Snarl. Happy Monday.

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