Friday, October 14, 2011

The Phenom in my back yard

There is a tree in my back yard that amazes everyone who sees it.  The tree is a pitiful-looking sight in the dull months—its dark limbs droop in the dreary days of winter.    

Come spring time, however, some mysterious force within the tree stirs it to life.  Buds begin to pop from its gnarled limbs.  Those buds quickly unfurl as winter breaks until the weathered branches of the tree are masked behind a youthful cloud of white blooms. 

In a couple of weeks, March winds will strip the tree of bloom and scatter her petals to the ground like snow.  However, her limbs fill with a new vitality.  Waxy dark leaves appear and tiny tear-shaped fruit begins to form along her aged limbs. 

If temperatures don’t plummet into the low twenties again, the fruit on the old tree will grow all summer long until the tree’s limbs stretch toward the ground like the worn teats of an old dog.  We marvel that she can support the heavy load hanging from her branches. 

When early autumn comes, first fruits will fall.  They are usually still green and very hard.  Slowly, though, into the warm days of October, the fruit turns golden. 

The skin of the fruit has a rustic homegrown look, unlike the smooth hides of the more delicate Asian pears. 

Soon pears are dropping by bucketsful daily.  The old tree has produced so faithfully in the past that folks know when to come and help themselves to her fruit. 

Some will lay their pears up to ripen further, often keeping them until deep in the winter season when they become completely ripe and very, very juicy. 

Old-timers still wrap the semi-hard fruit individually in sheets of newspaper and store them in wooden crates.  They claim the pears will be just right for eating come Christmas.    

Still others will process the fruit into sweet treats for the winter—preserves, honey, sauce.  That’s what I’ve been doing.  I’ll share a couple of recipes later. 

This old tree is amazing not only for her hardiness, her fruitfulness, and her resistance to fire blight, but for her age.  She’s stood behind the old house here for as long as the oldest members of my family can remember. 

The truly startling thing about the old tree is that her trunk is but a hollow shell.  Half of it is missing. 

We’ve got apple trees that produce very little with a whole trunk.  What’s going on here?  What fountain of youth has the old tree tapped into? 

I want some of that! 

The old pear tree makes me think of a Bible verse which says, “Blessed is the man (or woman, I presume), who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord, for he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes, but her leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of the drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” 

This old tree inspires me, as I think it does others.  And it feeds me--my family and friends too.  I want to be like that old tree, producing desirable fruit long into old age so that when folks walk by they will marvel and say, “How’s that shriveled up ol’ thing doin’ that?” 

Hu-hummph. 

Now, for a recipe.  This one sounds very similar to the way my grandma Hannah made pear preserves (according to my mother).  I searched for a similar recipe on cooks.com and found this one so I could provide you with some exact amounts.





AMBER PEAR PRESERVES

Read more about it at www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1923,155176-228204,00.html
Content Copyright © 2011 Cooks.com - All rights reserved.
4 c. under-ripe pears
3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
This recipe is about 75 years old. Peel and chop under-ripe pears. Let stand overnight with sugar and lemon juice. Stir then put on low fire and let simmer until pears have turned amber color, about 2 hours. Go by color. Stir to be sure it isn't sticking. Pour in prepared jars and seal. Use all juice. You are really in for a treat.



These preserves are very tasty but are intensely sweet.  One good way to tone down their sweetness is to spread some cream cheese on one of those Pretzel Flipside crackers and dab a bit of pear preserves on top of that.  Then, of course, you simply devour. 

Um, um, um.  You can’t sit still and eat it!  

I’ve been making pearsauce too.  All you have to do, if you are lucky enough to have an ageless pear tree in your back yard, is fetch some of the pears in and peel them, quarter and core them, then feed them through your most vicious food-processor.  Dump them into a good sized sauce pan, and add a spoonful of lemon juice.  Add a cup or two of sugar to taste and simmer this simple concoction on the stove for a half an hour or so.  Wait until it cools a bit then ladle yourself a big bowl of it and EAT! 

Better yet, bake a batch of homemade biscuits, and slather some of that sauce on a buttered one.   

Here’s some visual evidence that I’m not kidding about that trunk being hollow.  Isn’t she amazing? 
 See?
She's merely a shell of her former self...
 but she produces...
 beautiful fruit...
 and lots of it...
 so I can make sauce...
and preserves!  Yummy!  Doesn't that look sweet and tasty? 

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