April McGreger is the owner of Farmer's Daughter Pickles & Preserves, a small batch preserving company focusing on the best of the local harvest in the North Carolina Piedmont. In addition to winning four Good Food Awards for her delicious jams and pickles, April teaches preserving classes and writes about food. She is an author of The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, including a chapter on "Putting Up," and has a book coming out this fall titled Sweet Potatoes: A Savor the South Cookbook.
These black pepper-spiked preserves are a twist on traditional southern-style pear preserves, which are traditionally spooned over hot biscuits. They are cooked slow and low so that the syrup thickens but the pears retain their shape. They differ from most jams, which are cooked hard and fast, and have a thicker spreadable consistency. Black pepper lends a pungent complexity to this variation that makes them a natural for the cheese or charcuterie board. They are particularly magical spooned over warm crostini topped with a blend of ricotta and grated Pecorino Romano and drizzled with walnut oil such as Good Food Award finalist Glashoff Farm’s, Roasted Walnut Oil.
Note: It is important that you use very firm, underripe pears for these preserves or they will cook to mush. —Good Food Awards
about 7 half-pint jars
very firm, pears such as Bartlett or Kieffer
Peel, quarter, and core pears. Slice the quarter crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. You should have about about 8 cups.
Peel your lemon and julienne the zest. Halve and juice the lemons and reserve the juice.
Peel the ginger, thinly slice it lengthwise, and then julienne it to be a similar shape to the lemon julienne.
In a preserving kettle layer pears, sugar, honey, lemon zest, and ginger, finishing with a layer of sugar. Cover with foil and let stand overnight on the kitchen counter.
The next day, place a plate and 3 spoons in your freezer.
Remove the foil from the pears, stir in 1/3 cup of lemon juice and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium to medium-low heat. Cook very slowly until the pears are tender and translucent and the syrup is thick, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Be careful not to burn them. Add a little water if they begin to stick to the bottom of your kettle before the pears are tender.
When the pears begin to look translucent, test the consistency of the syrup by placing a bit on one of your cold spoons and putting it back in the freezer for another minute or two. You want a consistency just thicker than maple syrup but not as thick as honey. If your pear syrup is not thick enough, cook another 10 minutes and test again.
Gently stir in the black pepper just before you pull the preserves off the stove. Ladle hot preserves into hot sterilized jars and top with 2-piece canner lids. You can store your preserves in the refrigerator (or freezer if you use freezer safe jars), or you can process them for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath canner for pantry storage.
Resource: National Center for Home Food Preservation for instructions on using a water bath canner. http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/using_bw_canners.html