caramelized gooey local syrup with windfall fruit

IMG_9581Do you remember that odd bag of pancakes in my freezer?  Well, I lived the freezer packrat dream for one glorious moment when I used them to test a new recipe.  Yet another from the oeuvre of Linda Ziedrich, whose work I rely on time and time again to inspire great Oregon canning recipes, the inspiration was sirop de Liège.  It’s a long-cooked, caramelized, thick, dark sludge made traditionally mostly of pears, with a little apple thrown in for good measure and pectin, traditionally eaten with cheese like membrillo.

Eugeniuses may find the Belgian city of Liège familiar, as it’s home not only to my syrup but also the waffles made locally famous by Off the Waffle.

What I love about the syrup is that it uses great quantities of fruit, perfect for those of us with pome trees or neighbors who want to get rid of pears, Asian pears, and apples.  You can make the syrup two ways: deliciously burnt-sugar dark sludge, or light peach-colored pourable butterscotch.  Since we don’t have our own source of maple syrup in Eugene, I thought it might be a good addition to those seeking local pancake enhancers.

Pear and Apple Syrup, Two Ways

Use a 6:1 ratio for weight of pears and/or Asian pears to apples.   Cut the fruit into quarters, leaving the peels and cores on, and cook it down on medium low until it liquifies.

Once the fruit releases lots of juice, carefully remove the fruit and strain the liquid into a large bowl. (You’re after the juice, not the fruit, so save your fruit to make applesauce with a food mill.) Press the fruit in the sieve to get as much liquid out of it as you can, then add the liquid to a clean pot.

Cook down the liquid on low heat for a few hours. After an hour or so, it should be the consistency of maple syrup with a slippery mouthfeel and a slightly caramelized color and buttery taste. Perfect for pancakes.  Stop here if you want to be able to pour it.

If you want a darker, richer, slightly bitter caramelized flavor (and more traditional version), cook for longer, being sure to watch as it gets thicker and more liable to burn.

The yield will be minimal for the fruit: warning.  Using 6 lbs. of Asian pears and 1 lb. of apples will yield about a pint if thin and as little as a 1/2 pint if thick.  As I said, it’s great if you have tons of fruit.  Not so great if you are buying at premium prices.

Variation: I recently came into a bunch of Asian pears, and thought I’d give it a whirl with a few apples and a handful of cranberries to make the color pretty (above).  The cranberries release some ruby redness and better yet, stay intact in the light syrup, so they become candied and really wonderful.

 

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cider pressing in da hood

IMG_8915 The Friendly neighborhood was the recipient of a Eugene neighborhood grant for fruit tree gleaning, processing, and educating this year, thanks to Matt Lutter and his partner, Jessica Jackowski, who also organizes work days for the exemplary Common Ground Garden, a neighborhood community garden staffed by volunteers. The Friendly Fruit Tree Project has spent the last month harvesting neighborhood trees and plants like crazy: blackberries, plums, apples, pears, etc., etc.

IMG_8912Last week, it was apples.  Amber gold.  Oregon T.  They managed to source an unused cider press in someone’s shed, and we all pitched in and took home some great cider to share! Using the press was much easier than I had expected; it’s a relatively simple operation, with a motorized rotor on one end to grind the apples and a hand-powered press to crank down the juice.  Apple bits got composted.  No waste, very little muss, very little fuss.

And of course, it was a brilliant way to connect with likeminded urban homesteading folks in the ‘hood: we shared cider recipes, taste-tested beet kvasses and hippie cookies, grumbled about grapes (ok, that was me), and watched apple-cheeked kids running around like monkeys.  What a wonderful paradise we live in.

See the full album here, and if you’re interested in taking part or spreading the word about the project, comment and I’ll make sure Matt gets your info.  It would be wonderful if other Eugene neighborhoods could get in on the gleaning action, since it’s such a service to those with unused fruit and to those who want to do the labor to share in the harvest.

The project was also the source of my prune plums for my recent lekvar undertaking, coming soon to a blog post near you.