Pears: Gifts from the gods
September 29, 2009
Pears are prominent in Greek and Roman mythology, sacred to three goddesses: Hera (Juno to the Romans), Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans), and Pomona, a Roman goddess of gardens and trees. Folklore reads that one of Athens’ most sacred kings, Perdix was cast into the sea to die, and his goddess, Athena, carried him to heaven, in the form of a partridge. The king was then named “Lord of the Pear Trees” – a title which progressed through history to “A Partridge in a Pear Tree” – a beloved American Christmas carol.
In Europe, it was customary to plant a fruit tree at a wedding. The longevity and fruitfulness of the trees were thought to give strength to the marriage and children. As each child arrived, an apple tree was planted for every boy, and a pear tree for each girl.
The ancient Chinese believed the pear was a symbol of immortality. In Chinese the word “li” means both “pear” and “separation.” For this reason, tradition says that to avoid a separation, friends and lovers should not divide a pear.
The very shape of a pear speaks of its luscious nature, and it’s no wonder we refer to some voluptuous female figures as pear-shaped. “Their sensual nature makes pears a romantic dessert,” said Bill Fitzgerald, Avondale’s pastry chef. “An elegant poached pear looks complicated but is easy to make. The presentation is always impressive.”
When ripe and ready to eat, the pear has a honeyed flavor and beckoning perfume. Purchase pears while slightly green because they ripen better and faster off the tree. As the starch coverts to sugar, the texture becomes soft and buttery. If you plan to bake pears, select those that are fairly firm.
There are several types of pear; those available locally include Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, Comice, Forelle, and Seckel. Among these varieties there are only subtle differences in flavor and texture.
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“Pear vodka is very popular now and makes unique fall cocktails,” said Brian Harker, Avondale’s bar manager, “Experiment with spices to come up with your own Pear-tini, or make the version here. Mix up a pear cocktail to enjoy with the colors of Indian Summer.”
Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Avondale, offers a versatile mostarda made with ripe pears. “Use it as a complement to roasted meats, cured sausages or a cheese course. Make the mostarda at least one day ahead of serving to allow the flavors to blend.”
Pears have no cholesterol, sodium or saturated fat. They offer a quick source of energy, as they have the highest amounts of natural sugars – fructose, glucose and levulose – than in any other fruit. This sweetness makes pears an ideal fruit for dieters, satisfying cravings while providing an energy boost.
1/4 pear, peeled
1/2 ounce agave nectar
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
2-12 ounce pear-flavored vodka
Muddle pear and agave in a pint glass. Add lemon juice and vodka. Fill glass with ice and shake. Strain into a chilled martini glass, rimmed with cinnamon sugar.
1/4 pear, peeled
3/4 ounce agave nectar
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 pinches ground allspice
2-1/2 ounces Ron Zacapa rum
1 egg white (optional)
Muddle pear and agave. Add rum, lemon and allspice. Shake* and strain into an ice filled tumbler. (*for a smooth, frothy
texture, add egg white to mixture and shake vigorously for one minute. Sprinkle ground nutmeg on top of foam.)
3 ripe pears, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch diced
1-1/2 cups simple syrup
5 Tablespoons spicy yellow mustard
2-1/2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1-1/2 Tablespoons black mustard seeds
1-1/2 Tablespoons mustard seeds
2 small lemons, zested and juiced
Combine all ingredients in medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Serve as an accompaniment to pork, chicken, ham or cheeses.
3 cups water
2 cups white wine
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 (1-by-3-inch) strips lemon zest
1 star anise
4 whole cloves
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, reserving the seeds and pod
4 Bosc or Anjou pears (about 1 pound)
Caramel or chocolate sauce
Vanilla, butterscotch, or favorite ice cream
Combine the water, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla bean seeds and pod in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved.
Peel the pears, leaving the stem intact. Slice off the bottom 1/8 inch of each pear to
create a flat, stable base. Reduce heat to keep poaching liquid at a bare simmer and add the pears, laying them on their sides so they are almost completely submerged. Cook, turning pears occasionally so they become saturated on all sides, until they are just tender when pierced with a fork, about 7 minutes. Allow pears to cool completely in their poaching liquid. Serve immediately, placed upright on the plate, drizzle with chocolate or caramel sauce and add a scoop of your favorite ice cream. (Poached pears and liquid may be stored in an airtight
container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.) Serves 4.
Variation: stuff pears before poaching with nougat or soft gorgonzola cheese. From the base of the pear, carefully remove core and pipe in filling. Then place in poaching liquid and follow cooking procedure above.
Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant
Avondale. Larkspur, at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale is in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.