I can never manage to wait long enough for pears to ripen. It's not that I enjoy eating rock-hard pears, or that I'm saving the experience of eating a juicy, aromatic, sticky-cheeked Anjou for some particularly glorious fall afternoon. No, I'm just impatient.
According to recipe developer and food stylist Andrea Slonecker, whose most recent book is the Short Stack Edition Pears, this is the number one pear don't.
"Set them on your counter"—pears ripen at room temperature—"and ‘check the neck,’" Andrea told me, referring to the area near the pear's stem. When you apply slight pressure with your thumb, as you might prod an avocado, you should feel a little bit of give, even with firmer varieties like Bosc and Seckel.
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But let's say patience isn't one of your virtues (join my club!). In that case, you'll want to roast your pears (caramelization will bring out a depth of flavor); mandoline and marinate them (the porous fruit will absorb the punch of the dressing and relax with the acidity); or—here's the head-scratcher—pickle them.
Yes, you can pickle pears! Andrea applied a foolproof pickling process from one of her earlier cookbooks, The Picnic, to turn firm, slightly underripe pears into a sweet and sour snack that pairs with rich roasts, cured meats, and powerful cheeses.
Choose Bosc if you'd like a longer, spear-like pickle and Seckel if you're aiming for a more adorable shape. Once you slice the pears and nestle them into a glass jar, all you have to do is boil a brine of apple cider vinegar, honey, salt, star anise, and peppercorns, then pour it over your fruit slices and allow the liquid to cool.
Keep your jarred pears in the refrigerator for up to two weeks; tangy, slightly sweet, and perfumed with star anise, they pair well against rich, bold flavors. Enjoy them on cheese-and-meat plate, chop them up and add them to a salad (use the pickle brine in your vinaigrette), or snack on them straight from the jar. You might even try layering a couple pickled pear slices into a grilled cheese.
Not only have you saved yourself from an underripe pear (phew!), but you've preserved them, too.
A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.