Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ginger and Cardamom Pear Sauce

Kieffir Pears from Riversdale House Museum
This pear sauce is perfect as a topping for pound or sponge cakes, it can be mixed with whipped cream, mascarpone cream or even ice cream, or it can be added to your favorite pancake recipe!

One of the things I like to do is to use historic recipes as an inspiration for creating my own new recipes.  When I was given a large quantity of Kieffir pears[1] grown at the c. 1801 Riversdale House Museum, I decided to research pear preserve recipes to help me determine ways in which to help me decide how to proceed with a new recipe.

Here are some historic recipes for pear preserves:

Buckeye Cookery by Estelle Woods Wilcox.  Minneapolis: 1877.

Pare, cut in halves, core and weigh (if hard, boil in water until tender, and use the water for the syrup), allow three-quarters of a pound sugar for each pound fruit, boil a few moments, skim, and cool; when luke-warm add the pears, and boil gently until the syrup has penetrated them and they look clear; some of the pieces will cook before the rest, and must be removed; when done, take out, boil down the syrup a little and pour over them; a few cloves stuck here and there in the pears add a pleasant flavor. Put in small jars with glass or tin tops, and seal with putty. Miss Florence Williams.

La Cuisine Creole by Lafcadio Hearn. New Orleans: 1885

Take small rich pears, and boil them gently in water until they will yield to the pressure of the finger. They must not be soft, or they will not preserve well. Take them out when a little boiled; let them cool, and pare them neatly, leaving a little of the stem on, as well as the blossom end. Make a syrup of a pound of sugar to a pound of fruit, and when it is boiling hot, pour it on the pears; next day boil them in the syrup till clear, and bottle them for use.

While these recipes are straightforward enough, it seems like there is a lot of sugar in them. The Kieffir pears I am using are actually quite sweet so I decided I would try to make the sauce with a lot less sugar. I also decided to give them a lot of flavor with spices. In the past, I have spiced pears with ginger and cardamom to great success, so I decided to use those spices in this recipe.  I also wanted to make a sauce, not a preserved whole fruit, so I veered off from the original recipes quite a bit!

What I offer you below is not a recipe, per se, just a set of guidelines.  You can adjust for the type of pears you can get, the amount of sweetness you prefer, and the spices you like (note that cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and mace also go well with pears).

Pear Sauce Recipe Guidelines: 

  1. Thoroughly wash the pears.
  2. Remove the stems and cut the pears in fourths or eighths, depending on the size of the pears.  The skin and seeds can remain.
  3. Add the pears and a handful of green cardamom pods to a large pot of boiling water and cook until soft.  This will depend on the number of pears you are using.  Make sure to cover the pears completely and do not allow the water to evaporate or the pears will burn.
  4. When soft, drain the pears and then pass them through a food mill to make the sauce.
  5. Add additional cardamom powder, ground ginger, and  freshly grated ginger root to taste.
  6. Depending on the sweetness of the pears, you can now add some sugar.  I added just 1/4 cup to almost 6 quarts of pear sauce to cut the slight tartness the sauce had.
  7. Can or freeze to keep for future use.
  8. You can serve the sauce on pound cake or any yellow sponge cake, topped with ice cream, whipped cream, or sweetened mascarpone cheese.

Pears in Food Mill

Finished Pear Sauce

1. Pyrus communis x P. pyrifolia; a pear with large yellow fruit. The white flesh is crisp, juicy, with a coarse texture. It produces fruit in late September. Very hardy and tolerates hot climates. source:

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