History in the Candymaking
Janice picked seven huge bags of fresh pears from Mom’s backyard pear trees. She gave two of them to Holly for her to create pear dessert.
Alan came to my house to fix the ballcock in my second bathroom. I made Texas butternut squash chili for him as a thank you.
Holly made pear pie, lots of it. She brought some into the brewhouse to share.
The chili recipe I made served ten. I sent Alan home with half.
One week of eating leftovers later, Holly and I were chatting politely in the brewhouse kitchen. She was sick of pears and I was able to identify with her feelings of gastronomic monotony regarding the chili. And before we knew it, the Great Chili/Pear Exchange of 2010 was born.
We felt confident in our swap, noting small elementary school children will perhaps one day crack open their history books to learn about our righteous trade. (“Okay teacher, why will the post offices and banks be closed this coming three day weekend?” “Well students, back in 2010, Janice picked seven huge bags of fresh pears from Mom’s backyard pear trees…”) At least we figured it might go something like that.
Flights to Switzerland were expensive that time of year and in the moment seemed a touch over-dramatic, so we choose to have the trade in my home as opposed to a neutral location. After replaying for Holly one of my favorite skits from the television sitcom “Cheers” (will save the details for another entry) and a healthy thumbing through of my Gourmet magazine collection, Holly left. In her possession was the cover recipe from Bon Apetit October 2008 and custard filled cornbread from Martha Stewart Living July 2007. I, on the other hand was left alone with 19 golden beauties waiting to be transformed into pear cranberry fruit gelees November Gourmet 2004.
In my reckless excitement I accidentally allowed one pear to fall from countertop to kitchen tile. I was forced to eat it before the bruising became apparent. I then segued from the last bite of pear one to the first bite of pear two without a single masticative rhythmic falter. Somehow, I was able to stop myself from eating them all. I had to. I couldn’t let the gelees dream die. With all the hard work Holly and I put into the Great Chili/Pear Trade of 2010, I knew I couldn’t let millions of future school children leave their history classrooms disappointed.
I copied the necessary ingredients from magazine page to grocery list and included a few extra necessities for cassoulet. I thought what the hell, let’s really give the kids something to read about.
News flash to me. Pectin is expensive. I didn’t feel $6 for an flavorless ingredient was a wise purchase but for the sake of broadening my horizons I forked over the necessary greenbacks. But my problems with the gel-ing agent didn’t stop there. In fact they didn’t stop until about 4:30 am.
I began the gelees around midnight (I live in a 24hr town. We think of midnight as late afternoon, dusk if you will. A time when you commit to winding down or going out). So with David Letterman monologuing in the background, I boiled pears, cranberries sugar, water, and butter in a saucepan. I then pureed the mixture and pushed it through a sieve all with relatively little drama.
I was in the homestretch. All I needed to do was simmer the remainder plus pectin for 45 minutes and pour into my serving dish. Would it really be that easy? I was hesitant. My memory recalled a 4th of July party incident concerning a “solid sangria” that never quite lived up to its adjective. Gratefully, Gourmet included a surefire method to test the pectin’s readiness in the gelees. Every 5 minutes I was to spoon a small amount onto a frozen plate and wait 60 seconds. If the gelee ran when the plate was tilted, I scraped it off, threw it back on the fire to tried again in another 5minutes. After 18 tries before ultimate success I swore I would use gelatin not pectin for all my solidifying needs. Six dollars poorer and two hours of missed sleep. How lucky can one girl get.
The next morning I sliced up, sugar coated and anxiously tasted the finished product before I even had my coffee. Heck they were tasty! My palette got more cranberry than pear but I was okay with that and I figured Holly and Janice would be too. Of course I brought in a batch to share with the brewhouse. I didn’t make enough to share with the brewhouse and all the eager school children of the valley. Maybe on the anniversary of the Great Chili/Pear Exchange. For now, all I can share with the future citizens of Las Vegas is the story.