Just before Christmas I saw a huge bag of English pears on offer in the supermarket. I snapped them up eagerly, thinking that they would make a delicious crumble, and some breakfasts and a few snacks when they ripened.
When they ripened that is.
So the pears gazed at our candle lit suppers, watched the blackbirds and their berries, felt the cold windowsill and the steamy window, got splashed with a little washing up water and saw the black night sky lit up with New Year fireworks. Every day I gave them a little squeeze and then chose an apple for my breakfast instead, not quite ripe enough yet, but soon, soon. Crumble seemed too humble for the festive season and so it passed by without a drop of pear juice moistening our lips.
On our return from a few days in Devon I found that the pears had reached and passed their peak. All fluffy and soft at the same time. Having waited patiently all Christmas, they now reproached me fragrantly from the fruit bowl. The only thing for it was to make some fruit leather, distilling those Christmas memories into a sweet chewy strip of pear magic.
Finley loves a little square of this pear leather sprinkled briefly with cinnamon and wrapped around a nut, or some toasted flaked almonds. We call those, 'walking sweets' because we take them on walks to dangle in front of Fin when he claims to be unable to go any further.
I'm not going to give you a recipe, rather a set of instructions.
Take a quantity of very ripe pears - not less than 4 - and chop them roughly, skin, pips and all. Throw the pear nonchalantly into a largish, heavy bottomed pan with a few teaspoons of water and heat gently until simmering. Stir every so often and mash with your spoon to get the juices to come out.
When the juices are flowing, turn the heat as low as it can go and keep cooking gently, stirring, mashing, spreading flat on the bottom of the pan until you have a fairly thick, deep rusty gold paste.
Mash the paste through a sieve to remove all the pips and rough bits. Spread onto some silicone baking parchment or a silpat, or a very well oiled tray in a layer a few milimetres thick and put into a very low oven - as low as your oven will go. Mine goes to 80C and that's about as warm as you want, any warmer, just leave the door ajar. The warming oven of an Aga (or similar) or a nice warm airing cupboard would work too.
Keep checking the paste by pressing your fingers onto it and checking for tackiness. You're aiming for something still chewy, but not sticky and soft. You might have to experiment, but err on the side of sticky, rather than letting the thing crisp up as it will then be inedible. Takes a couple of hours in an oven, longer anywhere else.
Allow to cool and peel off the paper, or store rolled up in the paper in an airtight box.
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