The Cottage Smallholder

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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
  • 2 kilos of pears
  • 500g of white granulated sugar
  • 150 ml of white wine vinegar
  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.

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.


  Leave a reply


  1. Minamoo

    Hello! I am getting lots of pears from a lovely freecycle fairy and was wondering how many jars the one recipe fills. I have the 1.5/1.8 Litre Le Parfait jars. Are they a good size or do you think I should use 1 Litre ones? Do the pears shrink as they’re cooked? I’m asking as I need to bring them up to university from Bristol next time I go home and don’t know how many to take! Also… long do they last once the jars are opened and how do you eat them? On their own or do you then add them to other recipes? Thank you!

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Lesley,

    The pears create their own juice, more than enough to cover them if you follow the recipe exactly. Try the recipe first before adding any other spices. The flavour is deep and rich and might be spoiled by the other spices.

    Use the gentlest heat setting for the simmer.

  3. Will there be enough fluid to cover the pears in the jars (as you only start with 150ml vinegar)or is this not important? If fluid is needed would it be ok to cover them with sugar syrup? And have you tried flavouring with nutmeg & cinnamon?

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Tessa,

    You probably can, I don’t now of anyone who has. The simmer has to be the gentlest simmer possible. I wouldn’t put the rubber seals in the Rayburn, sterilise them in boiling water.

    Sealing them: I put the pears in Le Parfait jars. Seal them and then simmer them in a Bain Marie on the top if the stove, this seems to do the trick. However, the conventional and safest method is to submerge the jars in water (sealed) as per our instructions.

  5. Can I make this recipe in my Rayburn instead of on top of stove? Also, I usually sterilize my jam jars in the Rayburn; can I put the rubber seals on the Le Parfait jars and put them in the Rayburn too, or will it ruin them? (I’ve never used them before)Finally, you mention when making a seal to put water level 2″ above lids presumably you have lids hanging down (open) for this?

  6. ok, thanks!

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jenny,

    Sorry I should have said vinegar. There is water from the condensation of the closed saucepan. Don’t whatever you do add water. The condensation and the pears seem to produce a lot of fluid. Water would ruin the intense taste.

  8. Hi, you mention the use of water in your reply to Michele Owen’s comments on Belgian pear recipe, but don’t mention water in the ingredients list for the recipe.. should we add water, if so how much?! Many thanks.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Michele,

    These are so delicious and people can’t believe they are just pears, sugar and water without the demon alcohol. Great for a dinner/supper/lunch party when you are pressed for time. A small jar makes a great present too.

    Thanks for leaving a comment.

  10. Michele Owen

    Thanks for this delicious recipe. I have been looking for something quick and easy to make with our glut of pears

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