Lustily devouring a ripe pear as fragrant juice runs down my chin brings on deep, pleasurable moans. Spooning warm chocolate sauce over a perfectly poached pear makes me positively giddy with anticipation. So why do so many home cooks sigh and turn away from these beautifully versatile autumn treasures in the markets?
It’s because all the pears are rock hard. But wait! Hard pears are not the rejects you might think. While summer stone fruits are best picked fully ripe and eaten soft and tender, pears should be picked before their prime (when hard), then allowed to soften just slightly on your counter at home. In fact, a soft, yielding pear on the grocery store shelf is already overripe and will likely disappoint with a mealy, grainy texture.
“How then” you ask, “does one know how to select a good pear?” Off to the market and grab a one. Place your fingers on its neck and apply gentle pressure; the pear should be quite firm. Now, check the bulbous area for equal firmness.
Congratulations, you’ve found a good pear. But now what? The fruit is still hard and inedible. Pears are easily ripened at home on your kitchen counter or in a fruit bowl for several days. They’re ready to eat when they yield just a bit to gentle pressure. Don’t wait for the fruit to truly soften or change color, or you risk it becoming overripe and mushy. Trust your instincts and take a bite. Perfection!
Store pears in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life—ripe fruit will last 3 to 5 days.
There is one more major thing you should know about pears before heading to your kitchen. Not all varieties can be heated—that is, poached, baked, grilled and sautéed. The firmer varieties such as sweet and juicy Anjou, Bosc and Concorde hold their shapes well even when cooked. Bartletts (red and yellow), Comice and Starkrimson are best saved for eating fresh.
Take a look at some of these recipes, then head to the market and select your fruit with confidence.
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Print these recipes and illustrated, step-by-step how to cooking techniques for your convenience.