I’ve been anxiously awaiting pear season for the sole purpose of making pear butter. Seriously. As soon as I saw a recipe for it last spring in my fav preservation bible, Put ‘Em Up, I knew I was going to have to make some this fall. And since I’ve been adding herbs to all my preserves experiments, I knew I wanted to try adding sage to it.
Sage is sort of a weird herb. It has fuzzy leaves. It’s a strange, slightly off-putting gray-ish green color. It smells like one of those overpowering Christmas candles from Yankee Candle or Pier One. It’s one of the four herbs you’re supposed to take with you on your trip to Scarborough Fair if you go there to see your true love. And it seems like you only ever see it used in two types of recipes—1) with some sort of squash ravioli and brown butter (sometimes with the leaves fried); or 2) in Thanksgiving stuffing.
It’s an interesting fall flavor and since seasonal flavors tend to pair (pun intended!) well together, I thought I’d give it a shot. My next door neighbor had also recently offered me use of her fresh herb box (which has rosemary, oregano, lemon thyme and sage) on our shared back deck, so how could I resist? I could actually see sage working well with a poached pear dessert—maybe with the pears poached in a white wine, served with some caramel sauce, sea salt and with fried sage as a garnish—that could be really good! I also see sage working well with apples or peaches.
A quick Internet search on sage shows that it was once prized for its medicinal qualities and that it, like most herbs, is really good for you. Why it’s taken a back seat to things like rosemary and thyme, who knows, but supposedly it’s quite good for digestion and also for things like urinary ailments and was once used to ward off evil. So–bonus–it’s also good for Halloween week!
Pears are one of those things I’ve always loved. When I was a kid, we always got the Bartlett variety but now there are a lot more varieties popping up in stores to choose from, and I like all of them. At my house growing up, we always used a pear slicer to cut the fruit into eight neat pieces with one cirucular center piece that cut out the core and seeds. My brother and I would fight over who would get more slices, but we usually left the core for my dad to nibble on because we didn’t want to deal with that stringy cord in the center around the stem or accidentally eat a seed, which, for some reason, was a childhood fear (Don’t eat the seeds—they’re poisonous! Which may or may not even be true…).
I like pears done in all sorts of ways, so I may do some more recipe sharing with them throughout the fall. I particularly like them with blue cheese in salads and also in desserts.
But on to the preserves! This is loosely adapted from Put ‘Em Up, but I added more to it, as I am usually wont to do. I also don’t like dealing with a food mill (bad memories from the one time I made homemade gnocchi with a friend and running the potatoes through the mill took copious amounts of time), so I cored and peeled my pairs beforehand and then broke them down with a hand blender before “paring” them down, or reducing the butter.
Pear Sage Butter with Vanilla
4 lbs. ripe pairs, cored and peeled
1 c. cider vinegar
¼ c. lemon juice
1 c. agave nectar
½ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
capful of vanilla
12-15 sage leaves, minced
1) Put cider vinegar and lemon juice together in jam pan or non-reactive saucepan. As you core and peel pairs, place them in the liquid to prevent browning.
2) When pears are all cut, boil them in the liquid for approximately 15-20 minutes or until softened.
3) Break down pairs to sauce consistency using hand blender or blender.
4) Add sweeteners and spices. Bring back to boil, then reduce until butter reaches desired thickness.
5) Add sage when butter is close to reaching desired thickness.
6) When done, turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
7) Jar and can using water boiling method for 15 minutes base or more depending on canning directions for your altitude.
This would probably also be good with a little brandy or Port in it. Or as an ice cream or pound cake topping (thinned out with some cider maybe). Play with it!
All recipes and photos copyright of Foie Gras and Funnel Cakes unless otherwise noted.