How to Cook Pears
What Can I Do With Pears?
Yes, I know I can eat them! But what else?
Pears have been cultivated for thousands of years, and are grown and loved in countries all over the globe. Eat them like an apple, sure, or slice them up…..but there are lots of other things you can do with pears and we’d all be wise to take advantage of the pear-nanza that is autumn.
What Are the Different Types of Pears?
Pears are divided in to two major categories, European and Asian, though European pears are what we typically see and think of when we think of the pear-shaped fruit, while Asian pears are less sweet, crunchier, and usually more apple shaped.
How Many Varieties of Pears Are There?
Like apples, pears are available is a wonderfully wide array of varieties (up to 3,000 have been recorded!). There are Anjou (the most readily available type of pear in the U.S.), Bosc, Comice, Barlett, Concord, Seckel, Ferrel…the list goes on, and each one has a different flavor and texture.
What Are the Best Pears for Cooking and Eating?
A few varieties are only good to eat when cooked, but most of the varieties commonly available are also great for eating out of hand, and using in salads or other uncooked dishes, like a salsa. Pears that are very ripe will get quite soft when cooked, so you want to choose them before they get too ripe when baking or cooking them.
How Do You Know Which Pears to Buy?
Select pears with smooth, unblemished skin.
How Do You Store and Ripen Pears
Allow pears to ripen on the counter, which will take anywhere from 3 to 6 days. Barletts will turn from green to yellow as they ripen, though most other pears will not change color. Once they are ripe, you will want to use them within a few days, or they will start to get too soft – if you need to put them in the fridge at this point to prevent them from getting mushy you can.
How Do You Cook with Pears?
Pears can be peeled, or cut up with the peel left on, but make sure to wash them well just before using. Some peels are smoother and some are rougher, so decide whether the texture of the peel will detract from the dish you are making.
Pears can be poached, sautéed, and baked in crisps, cobblers, pies, tarts, or wrapped in pastry. They can also cooked and pureed and used in both sweet and savory dishes, to sweeten up a parsnip or potato puree for instance, or in a soup.
How Can You Prevent Pears From Turning Brown?
Pears turn brown, or oxidize, fairly quickly. If you are using them in a baked good, cut them right before adding it to the recipe If you are adding sliced pears to a cheese platter, for instance, and you know they will need to sit out for a bit, you can brush the cut surfaces of the pear with a bit of water mixed with lemon juice to prevent browning. This will add a little tartness, however.
What is the Difference Between Hard and Soft Pears?
Some pears get soft when they ripen (like Comice and Bartlett), while others (like Concord and Bosc) remain firm. If a pear variety is meant to be eaten soft, it will not have much flavor when it is unripe. See here to find out if the variety of pear you have is meant to be hard or soft.
What Do Pears Taste Like?
The flavor of pears varies significantly from variety to variety. Some get quite sweet when ripe, like Concord, while others, like Forelle, stay a bit more neutral in flavor.
When Are Pears in Season?
While different types of pears have different seasonality, late summer through fall is the peak time for pears.
How Do You Ripen Pears?
Interestingly, pears do not fully ripen on the tree, unlike most other fruits. They are picked when mature, but then need to sit on the counter for several days to get to peak ripeness.
How Do You Know When a Pear is Ripe?
Other than Barletts, which just get a bit brighter in color, the best way to see of a pear is ripe is to gently press a finger against the neck of the pear. When it yields to the touch, its ready to go. USA Pears even has a little saying: “Check the Neck”.
How Do You Store Pears?
Unripe pears need to be stored at room temperature in order for them to ripen, but when a pear is ripe it will hold well for a few days in the fridge. If you have unripe pears and you aren’t yet ready for them to ripen you can put them in the fridge and take them out a few days before you are ready to use them.
Are Pears Nutritious?
Pears have nice fiber content, and a decent amount of vitamin C built in. There are about 100 calories in a medium pear.
Try pears in:
- Pear Tart Tatin
- Cranberry Pear Crisp
- Romaine Pear and Goat Cheese Salad
- Spicy Pear and Cilantro Salsa
- Endive Salad with Pear and Creamy Herb Dressing
- Prosciutto, Asian Pear and Blue Cheese Crostini
Have other produce questions? Hopefully I have answers!
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