I have discovered the tastiest, juiciest, most refreshing fruit in the world: the Asian pear. Asian pears look like a cross between a pear and an apple, but they are a fruit all their own. Their texture is crisp like an apple and their flavor is full and sweet like a perfectly ripe pear. The ones I have tried are golden-brown in color and packed with refreshing juice. My husband and I often stand over the kitchen sink to eat them, doing our best to slurp up every last drop before it runs down our fingers. It makes me feel like a kid eating a popsicle on a hot day.
As you can probably guess, Asian pears originated in Asia but they have spread throughout the world. I usually get mine at the local farmers market, from Maple Ridge Farm in Canadys, South Carolina (843.538.3345). After tasting one of my friend’s asian pears and speaking with the farmer, Fritz Aichele, I knew I had to buy a bag for myself.
Now, I am an Asian pear junkie. I buy eight to ten asian pears each week. The stand often runs out of them within a couple of hours at the market, so I rush to make sure I get my fix. I am not generally a violent person, but I would probably take someone down if it meant I got the last bag – they really are THAT good.
This week, as usual, I came home from work and rushed my husband out the door so we could get to Fritz’s stand as quickly as possible. To my surprise, there was a different booth sitting where Maple Ridge Farms usually sells their goods. My eyes began to dart from booth to booth searching for Fritz and his bags of golden fruit; my heart started beating a little faster and my palms started sweating. The fact that I wouldn’t get to eat these delicious fruits for the entire week was only part of the problem. I had already started writing this post, researching the fruit, and picking out recipes I would try with them. All of this work would go to waste if I had inadvertently missed Asian pear season. My fruit-induced panic attack continued until I finally resigned myself to the lack of Asian pears.
I made my way, head and shoulders drooping with disappointment, to my favorite organic vegetable stand (Joseph Fields Farm, Johns Island, 843-729-9606) to buy the rest of the produce on my mental shopping list. As I picked out green peppers, late summer squash, baby eggplant, sweet Vidalia onions, a cucumber, and peaches, my eyes spotted a basket of golden Asian pears. I exclaimed, “Asian pears!” out loud, to no one in particular, and dropped the produce I was holding in my hands to dig into the basketed bounty before me. These were smaller than the ones I usually bought, but looked just as juicy and delicious. I quickly bagged fourteen fruits and held them up like a prize for my husband to see. The Asian pear gods must have been smiling on me this week. Beyond all odds, I emerged from the market triumphant.
As much as I treasure Asian pears, I don’t actually cook with them often. They are so delicious on their own that I don’t have to use them in a recipe to enjoy them. Also, because of their high juice content, they are not very good to bake with and they tend to lose some of their flavor if you leave them cut for too long. However, I have devised a few recipes that include them for added sweetness. For example, I added them to my curry chicken salad recipe from a previous post.
On another food blog, I found a great Asian pear butter recipe that uses a slow cooker. After my victorious trip to the market, I decided to give it a whirl. Since my pears were small in size and number, I made this in my mini slow cooker. In the future, I hope to make larger batches for freezing or canning.
- Don’t get carried away grating fresh nutmeg. Without realizing it, I added quite a few tablespoons too many.
- Plan to make this recipe on a day when you are home. I let mine cook overnight, only to find that it was not close to done when I left for work the next day. I had to plan a hurried run back to my house during lunch break to make sure it didn’t burn. It’s probably best to be around all day, stirring occasionally. Also, I wish I could have cooked mine into a slightly thicker consistency, but ran out of time. Definitely plan for a full night and most of a day of cook time.
- Asian pear butter doesn’t freeze into a solid. I actually feel silly for not realizing this before I spooned it into an ice-cube tray. My thought was to make Asian pear butter cubes that we could thaw/eat a little at a time. Instead of freezing into solid cubes, it turned into a slushy consistency that I had to scrape out of the tray and into a freezer bag.
Here are some other Asian pear recipes I want to try:
One other tidbit about Asian pears: they stay good for a long time if kept in a cool, dry place. Farmer Fritz, who grows the fruit, says he found one in his fridge last February that had been there for months. He ate it and it was still delicious! I’m hoping to stock up next week and keep them around for the cooler months, each a small reminder of this juicy summer.