Thursday, 11 November 2010  |  Admin

It's that time of year again and this year I'd pretty much decided not to do my usual christmas hampers. After all, we've just moved house to a house that needs loads of work. I'm halfway through my 4th pregnancy and and quite knackered understandably.
But then I got to thinking about what we'd do for christmas pressies for everyone, especially those hard to buy for male relatives. There's nothing they particularly want or need and I don't want to buy random slippers / toiletries / scarf and hat sets as it just seems a waste of money.
So I've worked out a plan of yummy things to make and I'm going to make two things per week between now and Christmas. I'll be sharing one of the recipes each week with you and aiming to make the ones which need time to mature first.
This week I made spiced pickled pears. It's based on a delia smith recipe that I've made a few times which my Father-in-law especially likes, however I've varied the quantities, sugars and spices used based on what I had in the house! The quantities given filled two x 1 litre kilner type jars and two 500ml ones.
2.4kg conference pears 800g sugar (I used a mixture of soft light brown sugar and caster sugar) 1300ml good quality vinegar (Delia recommends 50/50 white wine and cider vinegar, however I also threw in some raspberry vinegar that I'm trying to use up) 7 or 8 inch cinnamon stick 2 lemons cut into thin slices 1 1/2 teaspoons (or a bit less) whole cloves 1 teaspoon schezuan pepper berries 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
(Delia recommends juniper berries and mixed pepper berries but I used what was to hand).
Put all the ingredients except the pears in your largest saucepan and slowly bring to the boil over a low heat. I didn't use my biggest saucepan initially and had to transfer the contents part way through making. Give everything a stir round now and again to dissolve the sugar crystals.
While that's happening, peel the pears using either a very sharp knife or, best of all, a really good potato peeler. Leave the stalks and the base florets intact. As you peel each pear, put it into a bowl of cold water to stop it going brown before cooking.
Once you have all the pears peeled, check that the sugar has completely dissolved into the vinegar, drain your pears and add them to the saucepan. Bring everything back up to a gentle simmer and let the pears cook for about 20 minutes or until they look slightly transparent and feel tender when tested with a knife.
In the meantime, sterilize your jars, either by washing thoroughly in warm, soapy water, rinsing, drying and heating in a moderate oven for 5 minutes or run through a hot dishwasher cycle.
Using a draining spoon, transfer the pears and slices of lemon to the clean jars. Try to get slices of lemon pushed down the sides of the jars as it looks pretty like that - I used kitchen tongs to do this.
Now boil the syrup furiously for about 5 minutes until it has reduced and gone a little syrupy. Pour in enough to fill the jars right up to the neck and completely cover the pears. Then scoop out the spices and add them to the jar as well. Any leftover syrup can be discarded. Cover and seal the jar and, when the contents are completely cold, wipe and label it and store it in a cool dark place for about 1 month before using.
The pears will keep well for 6 months.

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