My mother would preserve two or three cases of pears before every winter. We would have at least two dozen quarts of pears to keep us through the winter, and a similar amount of peach preserves.
Pear preserves are so quick, so simple, and so easy to control the sweetness of the syrup. I have, however, found it amazing to observe how long processing times are for all the pear preserve recipes I have seen on the internet. Twenty or more minutes of processing time is far too long, guaranteeing that your pears will fall apart. The recipe I use is, again, one that my mother has used for decades. Processing time is no more than 5-7 minutes, and these pears still have a shelf life of one year (as long as they are properly vacuum-sealed in the water bath processing!).
There are a few keys to successful pear preserving: pack those jars as much as possible (when you think you can’t squeeze in any more, squeeze a couple more in anyway!), keep processing time in the water bath to a minimum (to prevent pears from falling apart), and use lemon juice in water after peeling and coring to prevent browning before processing.
The recipe I use heats the syrup, then heats the pears in the syrup, before packing the jars. This helps decrease processing time and keeps pears intact for a longer shelf life. As usual, it’s critical to get rid of bubbles once you’ve packed the jars and before you seal them for processing. This allows you to keep the head space consistent and a proper vacuum seal to form during the processing.
One case of Bartlett pears yielded only six quarts, but that’s well-packed quart jars that will easily serve six people for dessert on a cold and wintery night. I processed one case this weekend, and I’m hoping to process one or two more cases before winter sets in. Note that not all pears are good for preserving: Bartlett pears are excellent to preserve when they are ripe. If not all pears are fully ripe, you will have inconsistency in taste and softness (processing will not soften unripe pears!!).
Recipe for Pear Preserves
2 cups sugar, 5 cups distilled water (for light syrup)
1 case of Bartlett pears
1/4 cup lemon juice in 6 cups water (to prevent browning)
Peel, core, and quarter pears. Place pears in the lemon water bath to prevent them from browning while waiting for processing.
Prepare a hot water canner bath–heat your canning jars and lids and keep them warm while waiting for packing.
Heat the sugar and distilled water on low to medium heat, to dissolve the sugar. Then bring the syrup to a boil. Add the drained peeled/cored/quartered pears to the hot syrup and heat pears in this syrup for 5 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, pack your hot quart jars with the hot pears. Pack as tightly as possible–even if you think it’s full, squeeze another one or two pieces in and use the slotted spoon to squeeze them down!
Fill jars with hot syrup, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal jars finger-tight with lids. Immerse in hot water bath for 5-7 minutes. Remove from hot water bath, and let cool!