Fall is in the air, can you feel it? It is always hard to see summer go and take all of it’s juicy, sweet fruit with it. The only one thing that helps to ease the pain of summer’s end is knowing that pears are just around the corner. Pears of all shapes and colors, waiting for us to pull out our oven mitts and get cooking. And, like any fruit, there is the right variety for every job. But before we explore the many virtues of each variety, lets talk about how to properly care for your pears so you make the most of your fall harvest.
The majority of pear varieties continue to ripen at room temperature, with the exception of Asian pears (see below). So, storing your pears in the refrigerator will delay ripening until you are ready to use them. Once you are ready, put them on the counter for a few days to ripen. Ripe pears can also go back into the refrigerator to keep from getting overly ripe.
Is it Ripe?
Pears ripen from the inside out, and the neck is the narrowest part of the pear, which is closest to the core. To test for ripeness, gently press near the stem for softness in the flesh.
PEAR VARIETIES AND THEIR USES
Characteristics: Comice pears have a squat shape and yellow-green skin that bruises easily. They are very sweet and juicy with a creamy flesh and are popular in holiday fruit baskets.
Best use: Comice pears do not hold up well in baked goods, but are better suited for sauces, fruit butters and eaten raw in hand, salads or paired with cheeses.
Try a recipe: Pear and Apple Chutney
Characteristics: Seckel pears are small, bite-sized pears with a tear drop shape and dark green skin with a red blush. They are considered “sugar” pears because of their super sweet flavor, the flesh is dense and course. These pears take longer to ripen than other varieties.
Best use: Their dense flesh easily lends them to roasting and poaching, or use raw to add sweetness and color to fall salads and cheese plates. They are also great snacks for children because of their small size.
Try a recipe: Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream
Characteristics: Crimson pears have a lovely red skin and a thick stem, with yellow colored flesh that is soft and juicy. They have a mild, sweet flavor with a floral aroma.
Best use: Crimson pears are best used raw to show off their vibrant color, but also work well in sauces and jams due to their softer nature.
Try a recipe: Honeyed Pears in Puff Pastry
Characteristics: Red Anjou pears are egg shaped with a dark maroon, or rust skin color and only slightly change color as they ripen. Their flesh is dense, sweet and mild in flavor. These pears are also popular in fruit baskets because of their lovely color.
Best use: Because they hold their shape these pears are best for baking, poaching, and grilling.
Try a recipe: Poached Red Anjou Pears in Cinnamon Syrup
Characteristics: Very much like their cousin the Red Anjou, D’Anjou pears are egg shaped with a green skin color and only slightly change color as they ripen. Their flesh is dense, sweet and mild in flavor. These pears were named after the Anjou region of France and were thought to have originated in Belgium.
Best use: Because they hold their shape these pears are best for baking, poaching, grilling and making.
Try a recipe: Pear Clafoutis
Characteristics: Concorde pears have a long narrow neck, full rounded bottom, and bright green skin. Their flesh is dense, very sweet and juicy with a vanilla aroma. It remains firm when ripe and can be enjoyed at many stages of the ripening process due to its early sweetness.
Best use: Considered an all-purpose pear, the Concorde is used raw because it does not turn brown easily when cut, it also retains its shape when cooked so it is great for baking, poaching and grilling as well.
Try a recipe: Pear Gruyere Strata
Characteristics: Bartletts are the most common pear in markets, often available all year round. They have a true “pear” shape with pale green skin that changes to golden yellow when ripe. The flesh is sweet, smooth and buttery with a distinctive “pear” flavor.
Best use: Because Bartletts are softer than other varieties, they are best eaten raw, or used for canning, chutneys and jams.
Try a recipe: Simple Preserved Pears
Characteristics: Bosc pears have a long curvy neck and a warm brown colored skin, often with russeting on the surface which is natural for this variety. Their flesh is firm, crisp and very sweet with a honey aroma. Bosc pears can be enjoyed throughout the ripening process as they sweeten early.
Best use: Bosc are firm pears that hold their shape well and therefore are best for poaching, grilling, and baking. They also stand up well to stronger flavors, such as tart cheeses, and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
Try a recipe: Pear and Camembert Appetizer
Characteristics: Asian pears have a round shape, similar to an apple, with a thin, yellow-green skin color that turns more golden when ripe. Their flesh is crisp, sweet and very juicy with a floral aroma. Unlike other pear varieties, Asian pears are sold ripe because they will not continue to ripen after harvest. So, store them in the refrigerator if you do not plan to consume them immediately.
Best use: These pears are best eaten raw, in salads or paired with cheeses because of their refreshing flavor and crunchy texture.
Try a recipe: Asian Pear Slaw with Ginger and Lime
Characteristics: Red Barletts, as with the green variety, change colors when they ripen, going from dark red to lighter, sometimes striped with golden tones. They have a true “pear” shape with very sweet and juicy flesh, and have the same distinctive flavor as the green variety.
Best use: Bartletts are best eaten raw, or used for canning, chutneys and jams.
Try a recipe: Pancetta Crisps with Goat Cheese and Pears