My grandmother made yearly batches of homemade pear preserves for the hundreds of pounds of fruitcake she made and sold every year. My father recreated the recipe for me a few years ago when I updated her recipe for my Modern Fruitcake. The preserves were delicious, full of sweet pear and lemon flavor all floating in an irresistible thick syrup.
Most the preserves I remember her making consisted of this syrup. Her figs floated in amber hued lemon-tinted syrup as did this jam. But, it’s not jam. When deciding what jam or jelly to grab for breakfast, I found that put this on the same things I would put orange marmalade on: biscuits and bran muffins. I decided to look up the definition of marmalade online and sure enough this is no jam. Marmalade consists of clearly defined pieces of fruit, usually citrus, cooked in a thick semi-clear syrup. In addition marmalade is cooked longer than jam, sometimes as high as 227 – a much higher temp than most jams. So, marmalade it is. Marmalade certainly sounds fancier, and I like fancy so I’m sticking with it!
Call it whatever you want, but this is delicious, inexpensive, easy and impressive. Two and a half pounds of pears, a single lemon and two pounds of sugar buy you five to six 8-oz jars of marmalade. You can eat all you want and still have a jar to give to that special teacher or cat-sitter.
A good thermometer is an important key to success for this marmalade. I have an inexpensive and accurate ThermoWorks thermometer, which I depend on almost daily. Unlike the expensive version, this one costs under $20. In my experience, most inexpensive thermometers do not accurately read high temperatures and break the first time they get wet. The ThermoWorks thermometers read up to high temperatures (over 500F) and the model I have is also water-resistant (it claims to be dishwasher safe but I’ve never tried). I use a pot of boiling water to test my thermometer’s accuracy at higher temps (it should read 212F) and ice water to test at cold temps (it should read 32F). If you do not have a thermometer that you are sure is accurate at high temperatures, buy one. It is well worth the small investment.
The marmalade is such a stunning color that I’m tempted to line them all up in my kitchen window to act as sun-catchers. Just one look of the sun streaming through the jars is enough to ensure a smile. It’s the color of sun and warmth. Making the marmalade is easy enough. The only key to success is to use very firm pears. The super juicy melt-in-your mouth pears are great for eating, but will fall apart in this recipe. I just bought twice as many as I needed. I cooked up half of them and the others sat around until they were just right for eating. Once Miss Magoo found them, they disappeared pretty quickly; that girl loves her fruit and veg!
After testing and finalizing this recipe, I have several jars of this stuff floating around the house. When I asked my dad how he made this, he told me to start with four pears to one lemon. I bought beautifully in-season organic D’anjou pears for the recipe. They made a lovely marmalade, but the ratio of pear to lemon was way off (in favor of the lemon). I then realized my dad was using the much larger conventional Bartlett pear. I adjusted the recipe using weight instead and that evened out the flavor perfectly. The flavor is sweet, mild pear with just enough lemon to stand up to the sugar. It is delicious on biscuits, it’s magical on these Gingerbread Bran Muffins, and it’s an important ingredient in the Modern Fruitcake. A single spoon is all I really need though. Enjoy!
- 2 1/2 pounds very firm green pears (about 4 large)
- 1 lemon (preferably organic)
- 2 pounds granulated sugar
- Peel and core pears. Slice lengthwise 1/8" thick. Slice the lemon as thin as possible, removing seeds as you slice.
- Add the pears and lemons to a large heavy-bottomed sauce pan and add the sugar. Set over medium heat and stir occasionally until the mixture comes to a simmer and the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer until the temperature reaches 225.
- If you do not have a thermometer then you will know you are close when the pears are translucent and the syrup is a light golden color. To test the syrup without a thermometer, drop a few drops of the syrup on a very cold plate (put the plate in the freezer for a few minutes before testing). The syrup will thicken enough on the cold plate to no longer run freely when turned on its side, and will take several seconds to start dripping.
- When the marmalade has reached temp, transfer to sanitized jars, wipe the rims carefully and seal with canning lids and rims. The marmalade will keep for about a year in a cool dark place. Once open, store in the refrigerator.
- Since the recipe calls for the whole lemon, try to use an organic or unsprayed lemon to keep the pesticides out of the marmalade.