Pear Ginger Ginger Jam.

This first week of school seems more productive and much different that I had expected.  I wandered around the house feeling lost and a little empty for a day or two, but then seemed easily able to buckle down to the important work of deep cleaning and mastering the art of high-hydration whole wheat sourdough.  I always forget just how deafening the quiet is when the kid isn't around.

Last week I had picked up a 3lb. bag of organic pears at the regular old store, beguiled by their $3.99 price tag to be sure, but also craving a gingery jam.  My across-the-street neighbor had made Marisa's pear jam not long ago and gave me a tiny sample.  I really liked it.  It had a nice consistency, and she had bumped up the vanilla bean even more - making it truly special.  The day before yesterday, my pears had miraculously softened (and I had wondered if they would, little green rocks that they were for nearly a week in a bowl on the counter).  Their pear-ness overwhelmed me.  I fooled even myself into thinking I had got them from a tree somewhere.

Pear Ginger Ginger Jam

Pears and I have a long relationship.  Growing up, my Mom canned whole peaches and pears every year in light syrup, and if I ever got to choose between the two, I'd always pick the pear.  I love the grit in the skin of a pear and that settles happily into it's flesh.  I love that it doesn't seem as sweet as a peach and keeps some toothsomeness even after canning.  I used to love, and still do love cutting a home-canned pear with a knife into thin slivers before eating.  And I love drinking the sweetened pear juice, cold from the fridge, that is left in the jar after all of the pears have been devoured.

When thinking about a pear jam, I knew I definitely wanted to keep the pear skins.  Not only does is make less work of things, it keeps some additional fiber.  Most of a pear's fiber and considerable amounts of Vitamin C are located in the skin - but more importantly, all the texture that makes a pear a pear is found there as well.

relaxing pear ginger jam.

crystalized ginger

I decided to go box-pectin free, and as I have come to do with most jams of this sort, I let the fruit macerate with the sugar for about 16 hours and I used raw sugar, which by the end of the relaxation had completely liquified.  Some of the pear edges turned brown, but I wasn't worried about a little oxidization since I knew the whole pot was going to cook down.  I let everything stand overnight together except the crystallized ginger, which I added just before the cooking down, and the vanilla, which I added just before packing into jars.  As with all jam, let your taste dominate the end result, and cook down until you are satisfied of the set.

Pear Ginger Ginger Jam (inspired by Marisa McClellan and Linda Ziedrich)
my yield was 6 half pints plus some run-over
  • 3 lbs. pears, ripe and giving to pressure, cored and chopped (skin on)
  • 2 oz. fresh ginger, grated (to taste, about 3-4 inches off a "hand")
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 5 c. sugar (I used raw sugar by weight - the weight of granulated - 958 g. or 33.8 oz.)
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 3 oz. crystallized ginger, cut into small cubes
  • 1 T. vanilla extract (I used the last of some vanilla bean paste I scraped from the jar and enough extract to equal 1 T.)
Combine the pears, fresh grated ginger, lemon juice and zest, sugar and cinnamon stick in a large, heavy preserving pot.  Let sit, covered, for 8-16 hours, stirring as you think of it.

When ready to make the jam, ready jars, lids and water bath.  Add the crystallized ginger and bring the pot up to a boil.  Boil the jam down until the consistency is as you like (and the jam falls nicely from the spoon, or mounds in a chilled dish).

Remove the jam from the heat and add the vanilla.  Ladle the jam into hot jars (remove the cinnamon stick - I like to keep them in the run-over jam I have), put on the lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Pear Ginger Ginger Jam

I refrained from adding more cinnamon than what was gleaned from a single stick of rough cinnamon stick during the resting and boiling.  So often, cinnamon dominates North American bakery and jam efforts.  I love cinnamon and feel it does have a place, but prefer it in the background of this gingery jam.  The jam was full of ginger flavor, but not spicy-hot from it which was my goal.  The lemon kept things in line from turning too sweet, and vanilla is always a good idea in just about anything I think.

Yesterday afternoon, another friend whose child is now is school all day came over and we tried it on simple, eggy, sourdough popovers.  I made a pot of tea, even though it grew warmer out than I had anticipated, and we sat for 45 minutes chatting the way I'd imagine women did 60 years ago. I appreciated every second of a spontaneous visit, while simultaneously keeping an eye on the clock to see when my son would be done with his school day.

sourdough popovers
These sourdough popovers were a King Arthur Flour recipe.  Super simple, and really excellent!

I am surprised again at how fast time flies.  And at how much I can accomplish in a day.  Laundry is once again caught up, the weather cooperates for line-drying in record time, and I found and eradicated dust I didn't know existed.  While those time-honored housekeeping things never truly end, I feel renewed in my purpose - strengthened by cooler temperatures and the need to bake, and the comfort of those who appreciate the bakery.  We're off to a good start this September!