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Free organic pears for the taking

Removing the seeds
Alicia Bayer

A friend of ours recently came by and asked if we were interested in getting some free pears from her in-laws' trees. Food just for the picking? Of course!

The trees were overflowing with pears, but they weren't the pretty ones you see in the supermarket. These were smaller pears, hard-skinned and blotchy, but utterly delicious. We picked as many as we could that day (a half-bushel basket and a few bags full) and brought them home for processing. Getting them ready for canning is amazingly simple -- it takes nothing but time and a peeler, a grapefruit spoon, and a knife.

We ended up canning them in a light syrup, and have the recipe here.

Free pears
Free pears Alicia Bayer

Free pears

Prepping the pears takes time, but it's easy work and you end up with some of the most delicious pears you'll ever eat. Just put on your favorite music and get to work!

Small but delicious
Small but delicious Alicia Bayer

Small but delicious

The pears from this tree were small and unsightly, but very tasty. Some had cracks in them and ended up as pear juice, but the better ones like these were prepped for canning.

Peel the base
Peel the base Alicia Bayer

Peel the base

With your peeler, remove a ring around the bottom (blossom) end. Either cut it in a circle or if the pear is small enough, just take one swipe across the base.

A good beginning
A good beginning Alicia Bayer

A good beginning

With the base peeled, you're ready to begin working on the rest of the pear. Don't worry about the blossom spot -- you'll be removing it in a later step.

Peeling the skin
Peeling the skin Alicia Bayer

Peeling the skin

Peel from the bottom of the pear towards the skinny end. You don't need to remove the stem either -- it gets removed in a later step as well.

A bare pear
A bare pear Alicia Bayer

A bare pear

The bare pear. If there are any brown spots or mushy areas, remove them now. Some spots may appear "clear" and soft as well. These are places that aren't bad yet, but may spoil soon. I usually remove them.

A pot o' pears
A pot o' pears Alicia Bayer

A pot o' pears

Put all of the pears in a pan or colander. They may brown a little in the air, but if you're cooking them or canning them (like we did), a little color doesn't matter.

Washing them off
Washing them off Alicia Bayer

Washing them off

After you have them all peeled, rinse them off. There will be little specks of skin or blossom on them, so make sure they're clean before you start cutting and coring them.

Right down the middle
Right down the middle Alicia Bayer

Right down the middle

Split the pear in half, the long way. Try to get as close to the true middle as possible -- it will make the rest of the job go easier. You don't have to worry too much, though. It's never a difficult job.

Removing the seeds
Removing the seeds Alicia Bayer

Removing the seeds

Using a grapefruit spoon (if you have one) or a teaspoon, remove the seeds. Just work it under one edge of the seed area and swivel it around. It should come out in one clean scoop. If any of the seed is left behind, just do it again.

Cleaning it up
Cleaning it up Alicia Bayer

Cleaning it up

When the seeds are gone, use the spoon or a paring knife to cut out the blossom and stem. If there are any other discolored or mushy spots, clean them out now.

If you want to bake with them (like in gluten-free mix-and-match snack cake), just dice the pears into small pieces and measure out the amount you need. We did that with some of our pears, but left these in halves for canning.

Putting them in the jars
Putting them in the jars Alicia Bayer

Putting them in the jars

Once all of our pears were peeled, cleaned, and cored, they were canned. We made a light syrup with the halves and my capable assistant scooped them into jars.

The final product!
The final product! Alicia Bayer

The final product!

Fresh from the pressure canner. We'll be eating them all winter. From our original half-bushel of pears, we ended up with over a gallon of cut pieces (for use in pear crisp or gluten-free mix-and-match snack cake) and a gallon of halves in syrup, 3 quarts and 2 pints. There were even a few pears left over for eating and making into juice.

Want to learn more about foraging? Be sure to subscribe to my column to be notified when I publish a new article! There's more of my favorite wild edible resources on Pinterest. And don't forget to check out my Cooking with Kids column!