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Bottled Fruit: Belgian Pears recipe

Photo of pears growing on the pear tree in our garden

Our pear tree

I breezed onto the internet just now to see entries for Belgian Pears. I thought that they could be a traditional dessert. Well, in Belgium, they are not. Which is a shame, as anyone, from the Belgians to the Bengalese would love this dessert.

Forget any memory of dull bottled fruit. This wonderful concoction just happens to be preserved in a jar. We tend to include this for dinner parties when we’re feeling under pressure. Many jars of this superb non-alcoholic scrumptiousness are patiently sitting in our barn, waiting to be opened and enjoyed.

Our own pears have been rotten this year. Barely a handful from the entire tree. So I drove over to the farm shop at Westley to stock up for this recipe. They had several sorts of pears but none of their own. The lady in the shop explained that their pears had failed this year, due to lack of water. They had a choice, water the potatoes or the pears.

This is a pity as the Westley pears are the best that I’ve found to buy around here. Their potatoes are pretty good too. This is the first year that I’ve tried them and it’s well worth dropping in for a bag if you’re passing. They are just like home – growns.

The recipe for Belgian Pears was given to me by my generous friend Jo. It’s great if you have a glut of pears but even if we have a poor year, I buy pears for this recipe. Belgian Pears are a superb finale for a special meal. They taste very grown up with a real of depth of flavour. Friends find it hard to believe that they are not laced with some exotic liqueur.

We put the pears into le parfait jars that we seal in a bain marie (how do I seal Le Parfait jars? See tricks and tips below). We always make a few small jars for Christmas presents. Belgian Pears last a good year; we are still enjoying the massive batch that I made last October.

Belgian Pears recipe
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Fiona Nevile
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 6 hours
Total time: 6 hours 10 mins
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 2 kilos of pears
  • 500g of white granulated sugar
  • 150 ml of white wine vinegar
Instructions
  1. Wash and peel the pears. Leaving the stalk on.
  2. Melt the sugar in the vinegar and any pear juice in a large heavy bottomed saucepan.
  3. Add the pears and simmer gently with a lid tight fitting lid for three hours.
  4. Remove the lid and simmer for a further three hours with the lid off.
  5. Pot into sterilised jars and seal in a Bain Marie.
  6. Test the seals when cold before labelling and storing.
  7. N.B. You need 2 kilos of pears. 1 kilo doesn’t make enough juice if you are going to bottle them.
Notes

Tips and tricks:

How do I sterilise Le Parfait jars and rubber rings?

Le Parfait jars can be used over and over again, as long as they are washed and sterilised just before use. Use new rubber rings every time the jar is reused. (Rubber rings are available from good kitchen shops. Living in the country, I tend to buy up a few packs if I see them so as to have them to hand when we start bottling).

The sterilising method that we use is simple. Just before making the food, I quickly wash and rinse the jars and place them upside down in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 160c/140c for fan assisted. When the oven has reached the right temperature I turn off the heat. The jars will stay warm for quite a while.

I only use plastic lined lids for preserves as the all-metal lids can go rusty. I boil these for five minutes in water to sterilise them. If I use Le Parfait jars, I do the same with the rubber rings.

How do I vacuum seal Le Parfait jars?
Fit a new rubber ring to your washed and sterilised Le Parfait jars, and fill to the level indicated on the jar, (this will be a line on the side of the jar).
Put the jars into a deep saucepan and put an old tea towel between them so that they can’t jiggle together and break.
Pour water to a level that generously covers the jars (at least 2 inches above the lids). Bring the water slowly to the boil. When the water boils turn off the heat and let the jars stand submerged until cool.

This method works well for us and we have never found a bad seal when we come to open the jars. It’s hard to prise the lids off if there is a vacuum seal. I usually give the lids a bit off a tug to check the seals. We sometimes use glass preserving jars with screw top lids (not old jam jars but a Kilner type of jar).

Some people think that these are safer to use as you can easily see whether you have a vacuum as there is a small section in the centre of the lid that is concave if you have a obtained a good seal. Use the same method as outlined above.

USE THE INSTRUCTIONS ABOVE AT YOUR OWN RISK. ALL ‘CANNING’ /PRESERVING METHODS VARY SLIGHTLY FOR EACH TYPE OF JAR, SO TRY AND KEEP THE INSTRUCTIONS THAT COME WITH THE JARS IN A SAFE PLACE FOR FUTURE REFERENCE



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127 Comments

  1. Hi – this recipe looks fantastic… I live in Brittany and cannot find white wine vinegar – I get a blank look and get shown white vinegar. They have every other sort of vinegar and white wine vinegar with various herbs!! Very frustrating. I was wondering whether I could use cider vinegar? I saw Joanna – a few comments back – had asked the same question – but she never cam back to say how she had got on!! I have got the pears and the sugar… Belinda

  2. Fran Murray

    Hi Fiona- just wanted to say THANK YOU for this recipe- have just made them again (third year running). They are simply stunning. As my pears are small I only do 2 hours with the lid off, then into the Fowler’s jars, and water bath for an hour. My only complaint this time is that the pears and liquid fit exactly into 3 jars, and I had no leftovers to scoff…….

  3. Juliano Wright

    Hello,I have followed the instructions but it was a late ordeal and I finished at 3;30 am.My concern is that because I filled only up to the line on the Le parfait jars part of one of the pairs is not covered by the syrup.I also had condensation on the underside of the lids.Is this normal?My last question is when you explain how to test the seal I am worried that I will break the seal by being too heavy handed.This is my very first attempt at using Le parfait jars.Oh what would you say about adding a couple of medium chillies in the process of the simmering to give a slight kick?kind regards Juliano

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Juliano

      If there is a good air lock on the Le Parfait jar the pear not covered by the sugar should be fine, I think.

      Testing the seals is easy and vital if you are storing the fruit. Just unclip the metal latch and then hold the lid of the jar over the sink. If there is a good seal the jar will not open. If it does open the you need to put the pears in the fridge and consume within five days.

  4. could you freeze the pears instead? I freeze them if I make them in red wine and that seems to work.thanks ,tom

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Tom

      This recipe has so much sugar in it that when I tried to freeze some last year the juice remained slushy 🙁

  5. mammafairy

    Hi again, Thank you for getting back so quickly!
    I anticipate using the large jar at New Year, when we have a lot of folk around! If they last that long…
    I have also been making your cucumber recipe, just done the second lot, using mini cucs, First time I have grown them and they started producing in May and show no sign of letting up.
    not sure if the courgette chutney I have made wil come up to the standard of the recipes on your site though, we have had success with yellow courgettes again for the first time, and they are coming out of our ears…from 3 plants.

    Thanks again

    mammafairy

  6. mammafairy

    Help!
    I have just made the pears, smell is amazing.

    How do you have a pan deep enough to do the 1 litre jars?

    they are taller than any of my pans!

    Thanks

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Mammafairy

      I would advise you to use much smaller jars as these are very rich indeed – unless you are feeding a large party! If you want to use bigger jars pour the hot pears and liquid into warm sterilised jars, clip the lids down (if Le Parfait type) or screw on the lids to finger tight and then give a half turn back (Kilner type) and then “poach” the jars in a bain marie. One of your saucepans, or a high sided roasting pan filled with 2″ of boiling water on the top of the stove. Simmer in the bain marie until you see the pears and liquid bubbling. Remove from the bain marie, tighten the Kilner jar lids and let them stand overnight. Test the seals the next day.

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Toffeeapple

    It was surprisingly good.

    Hi Danast

    I do like playing with recipes like this to tempt D to eat less meat.

    Hi Cookie Girl

    Yes I love the dish too and use it a lot. Somehow the potato just worked really well.

    Hi Peter

    Oh that sounds delish! Cant wait to try that out.

    Hi Raenbow

    Salami is a nice twist. Thanks.

    Hello Cara

    If you are in the mood for making white sauce it only takes a bit longer to make six pints than it does to make one.

  8. Heather Squires

    I was given a box of pears last September. This recipe came up, and alll the wonderful comments made me think it was the one for me.
    I didn’t read the recipe through properly……….6 HOURS SIMMERING!!!!! ( and somebody commented that it was quick & easy!)The result is VERY sweet–lovely, but you don’t need much per portion.I used 1xlitre jars.Unless you are feeding a large party you have an awful lot to get through once the jar is opened. In future I shall always use 500ml jars. I’m thinking of trying something a bit lighter next year.

  9. Hi,
    I am writing from Daylesford, Victoria, Australia. We have a very full pear tree ready for harvesting and I found your recipe when I googled ‘preserving pears’. Just wanted to write and say thanks- my husband and I just finished some with vanilla ice cream, these pears are soooo delicious, we’re planning to cook and preserve all weekend long.
    Thanks again!

  10. Cathryn v B

    Hello Fiona, I googled ‘Bottled Pears’ and came across your delicious sounding recipe as I have loads of nashi pears which are now in season down under :. I live in New Zealand so will let you know how I get on. Fingers crossed… Regards Cathryn

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