Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pears in Syrup

It's cooling down out there and I have the urge to make things which take awhile to cook and make the house smell good. My husband always looks at me a bit oddly when I suggest buying air fresheners. He explained why once, "The house should smell like cooking." Truly one of the most flattering things he's ever said to me.
The pears this year are truly awesome. If you can get to a farmer's market, I suggest you do so. The late-season pears are worth the trip. Even the ones in the grocery store are looking good, smelling good, tasting good...
And on that note, I present Pears in Syrup from three different recipes. Two are intended to se served from kitchen to table. The third is a preservative method which Peter Brears has reconfigured to make into a servable dessert. With the other pears in wine and colored pears recipes one finds throughout period, it's a logical progression.

Source: Curye on Inglish, Constance B. Hieatt & Sharon Butler (eds.)
Take peeres and pare hem clene. take gode rede wyne & mulberes oþer saundres and seeþ þe peeres þerin & whan þei buth ysode, take hem up, make a syryp of wyne greke. oþer vernage with blaunche powdour oþer white sugur and powdour gyngur & do the peres þerin. seeþ it a lytel & messe it forth.
What I've discovered of Greek wines, in period and currently, is that they tend toward dry and spicy, particularly the reds. I have saunders, but the idea of coloring with berries appealed to me so I mixed in both saunders and blackberries. I cooked two whole pears (slightly overcooked, actually) and ballparked the proportions. Using a small glass saucepan I laid the peeled (I left the stems on) pears on their sides and covered them with red wine, a handful of berries I'd smooshed up well, and about a teaspoon of saunders. When I could sink a fork into them easily I removed them and drained off the wine/berries/saunders. I didn't bother to rinse the pan and put in something between half and two thirds of a cup of ... ummm ... sweet vermouth (I had it on hand and am no wine connoisseur), about two tablespoons of sugar, and about a scant teaspoon of ginger. That I boiled until it reduced by about a third then turned the heat off. When it stopped moving I rolled the cooked pears in it (lost bits, since I'd overcooked them in the first place), took them out, stood them up in dishes, and poured the syrup over the top. They disappeared forthwith.

Wardonys in syryp
From: Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888.
Source: Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books by Thomas Austin.
Take wardonys, an caste on a potte, and boyle hem till þey ben tender; þan take hem vp and pare hem, an kytte hem in to pecys; take y-now of powder of canel, a good quantyte, an caste it on red wyne, an draw it þorw a straynour; caste sugre þer-to, an put it [in] an erþen pot, an let it boyle: an þanne caste þe perys þer-to, an let boyle to-gederys, an whan þey haue boyle a whyle, take pouder of gyngere an caste þer-to, an a lytil venegre, an a lytil safron; an loke þat it be poynaunt an dowcet.
I have not cooked this recipe yet. I wish we could get wardons because I always feel whatever I'm using is way too soft for the described cooking methods.
While the recipe says to pare and cut the cooked pears, that might be more of an adventure in cooking than most of us really want to have. Perhaps it's just easier to so treat the raw pears.
A suggestion of proportions I've found looks to be workable:
3 pears
2 cups red wine
2 tsps. cinnamon
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. ginger
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
pinch of saffron

What I have done is make a cinnamon/ginger/wine/sugar/vinegar sauce for canned pear halves. I use a quarter cup of wine per pear half and season to taste, drop the halves in so they lay flat in the liquid, put in the fridge, turn over every so often until they take up the color, then serve. I suggest this as a nice way to dress up pears, but really, you (and I!) should try the authentic thing while the pears are still in the stores.

Pears in Syrup
From: The good huswifes Jewell, part 2 by Thomas Dawson, 1596
Source: Tudor Cookery by Peter Brears
To conserve wardens all the yeere in sirrop: Take your wardens and put them into a great Earthen pot, and cover them close, set them in an Oven when you have set in your white bread, & when you have drawne your white bread, and your pot, & that they be so colde as you may handle them, then pill the thin skinne from them over a pewter dish, that you may save all the sirrope that falleth from them: put to them a quarte of the same sirrope, and a pinte of Rosewater, and boile them together with a fewe Cloves and Sinnamon, and when it is reasonable thick and cold, put your wardens and Sirrope into a Galley pot and see alwaies that the Syrrop bee above the Wardens, or any other thing that you conserve.
Brears' reconstruction:
3 pounds pears
1-1/2 pint water
8 oz. sugar
1/4 pint rosewater
1 tsp. whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon

Place the pears in a casserole and bake at 350 degrees F for 1-1/2 hours until soft to the touch. Cool, then peel. Simmer any liquor which runs from them with a syrup made from the remaining ingredients, add the pears, and simmer for a few minutes before cooling.

Tec notes:
To make the syrup bring the pear syrup, water, sugar, rosewater and spices to just barely a boil then simmer and stir until the spices color it and it thickens a bit. When it's a real syrup, add the pears and cook until nicely colored. Your kitchen will smell fabulous for days.
Brears has a picture of his version of this recipe in Tudor Cookery where he's stood the pear up in a small dessert bowl and surrounded it with alternating red and black berries. It's really gorgeous.

I'd love to hear about how others have interpreted and served these recipes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh god, okay, I'm sure you've heard this ad nauseum, but I totally came here thinking you were writing about food you eat/crave while menstruating. I was totally thrown by the old English for a minute...

That said, these sound amazing.