I’ve written before about the temperamental old pear tree here at the farm. Some years it just drops its leafy curtain and goes dark like a failed Broadway show.
But this year, its staged a comeback, performing magnificently and earning applause from one and all. These heirloom pears are the old-fashioned kind that taste a bit sweet, but are as hard as a rock. Even so, they were prized by farmers of long ago as good “keeper” for the winter months.
Can You Can? Or Can’t’ch?
I once took a canning course from University Extension in Rolla, back when I was an eager, young housewife cooking for a husband and four kids everyday. I canned tomatoes, green beans, and beets from our garden each year, but everything else went in the freezer. But I never made any jelly or preserves. To tell the truth, I’ve always been intimidated by the idea. It looked hard, though Martha and Paul say it’s not that difficult.
I’m going out on a limb here and guess that most of you who read this blog are not going to take up preserving fruit. Besides, I feel ill-prepared to give instructions, when I’ve never had the courage to undertake the “jarring” activity myself. But these photos from my pear-picking, preserve-making neighbors will give you an idea of the process.
Yes, I’m thankful for good neighbors who are skilled and sharing. Hopefully, a jar will show up for Thanksgiving this year.
From Pears to Preserves
“Way Down Yonder in the Paw-paw Patch”
If you’re wondering about the green items in the photo above, they’re not pears. They’re paw-paws, the largest edible fruit native to North America. They appear about the same time as pears each year.
The inside of the tropical-like fruit is yellowish with a creamy, mango taste. The black seeds are annoying to dodge, but the fruit is splendid. Paw-paws are ripe if they’re on the ground or if they fall when you shake the tree. Unlike, heirloom pears, they only last a short while before becoming overripe. Lewis and Clark recorded in their journal that on occasions they survived on paw-paws and nuts during their travels.
The old campfire ditty recorded by Burl Ives asks: “Where, oh, where, is sweet little Susie?” and concludes that she’s “way down yonder in the paw-paw patch,” picking up paw-paws and putting them in her pocket. No surprise there. In the Ozarks, that’s what people do this time of the year.