Skip Black Friday and have a jam session
In this week’s Brand X Holiday Gift Guide, we sought the help of Kevin West, writer of Saving the Season, who shared a recipe for preserved pears, peppercorns and lemon.
There's a printable label to customize your preserved present, too.
Recipe after the jump:
*This has not been tested by the L.A. Times Test Kitchen
Preserved pears with peppercorns and lemon
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
5 small bay leaves (we used California bay, which is considerably stronger than Turkish or Mediterranean bay; adjust accordingly)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 1/2 pounds (or more, see above) small, firm pears (we used slightly underripe Boscs)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 2-inch by 1-inch strips of lemon peel and additional thinner strips (approximately — I just whacked off a wide strip of lemon peel with my sharpest knife and then carefully scraped away all the white pith)
Additional thin strips of lemon peel
Yield: 2 pints
1. Make your syrup: Choose a small pot, so that the liquid will stand at least 2 inches deep in the bottom, then add water, vinegar, sugar and honey. Stir over moderate heat until it boils. Skim the foam that rises off the honey. Add aromatic bay leaves, two large strips of lemon peel and peppercorns and return to a boil briefly. Then turn off heat.
2. Peel, quarter and carefully core the pears. As you work, place the fruit in a bowl with the lemon juice to prevent browning, and periodically turn the fruit over in the juice to coat it well.
3. Bring the syrup back to a boil, and introduce a single layer of pear slices to the hot liquid. (You’ll be working in several batches.) Return to a boil and cook for five minutes or more until the pears are softened but not mushy.
4. Carefully spoon the cooked pears into your prepared jars. Fit them in snugly, gently shaking jar to settle the slices, but don’t smash the soft fruit. You might also want to move them with a simple wooden kabob skewer. To each jar, add a few peppercorns, a bay leaf from the pot and a fresh strip of lemon peel. Try to place these at the wall of the jar for aesthetics. Don’t yet top up with syrup or seal.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have cooked and packed all pears. Now top up jars with hot syrup, leaving half an inch of head space. Run a thin implement (we used a bamboo skewer, which worked well, but you could also use a knife or a small spatula) around the inside of the jar to release air bubbles. Skim any foam or bubbles off the top of the liquid, wipe rims clean and seal.
6. Process jars in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes.
7. Head to Brand X to print your own custom labels to place on the jars.
Voila! You've got a gorgeous edible gift for under $4 a jar.
Photo credit: Kirk McKoy