Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pear and vanilla honey

Pears were never my favorite fruit. That slightly grainy and at the same time slippery smooth texture put me off. S on the other hand, loves them. From autumn till late winter, pears adorn our oversized fruit bowl and he always seems to munch on them after dinner.

I can’t say that I have somehow miraculously converted to eating them, but this recipe made me reconsider my relationship with the fruit. Let me introduce you to the pear and vanilla honey and to make things clear, it doesn’t contain honey. This is like a jam but with a honey consistency. And it is dreamy.

The idea of making this came from an experiment I made a long time ago with apples. I wanted to make apple jelly but ended up making apple honey. It never occurred to me to apply the process to other fruits but when I had some Conference pears staring at me from the fruit bowl, the decision was made. Pear honey it was.

I made it a couple of times since that first time and S polishes off a couple of small jars all by himself. As for me, it is something I go for in the mornings instead of my beloved strawberry and raspberry jams. That speaks volumes about how good it is.

What you do is simple. You add some chopped pears to a pan along with a split vanilla bean and a little lemon juice. You simmer until the pears soften and the smell is sweet and tempting and then you purée the whole lot. You add sugar, simmer for a while longer until it thickens and bubbles like amber-colored lava, and you’re done.

It is incredibly aromatic and not very sweet, with the right amount of acidity from the lemon and a spicy quality from the vanilla. With a smooth and ever-so-slightly grainy texture from the pear, it flows like honey without the stickiness.

I made brioche the other day and when I smeared some of the pear honey over a thin slice, it was magical. It was what breakfast dreams are made of. A couple days ago though, when I was craving a savory nibble, I paired the pear honey with mature Gruyère cheese and some crusty bread, and I was enchanted by the combination of savory and sweet.

Pear honey, you are a wonderful thing.

PS. I need to share the recipe for this brioche bread, soon.

Pear and Vanilla Honey

I used Conference pears; the most common European pear. Their flesh is grainy, sweet and juicy and perfect for this pear honey.
Use ripe but not overripe pears.

By the way, the pear honey is a perfect pair to these Parmesan biscuits.

Yield: about 600 g (3 small jars)

1 kg whole pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped (about 750 g after peeling)
Juice of 3 lemons (130-140 ml)
300 ml water
1 vanilla bean, split
390 g caster sugar (less or more depending on the amount of pear purée you end up with, read on recipe for details)

Special equipment: medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pan with lid, immersion or regular blender, fine sieve, measuring jug, glass jars with lids

Add the peeled, cored and chopped pears to a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pan (I use a Dutch oven) along with the lemon juice, water and split vanilla bean. Stir and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Then, cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue to simmer for a further 15 minutes, or until pears are soft, stirring from time to time.

Remove the split vanilla bean carefully from the pan, scrape out the seeds carefully (the bean will be hot) and add them to the pear mixture.
Using an immersion blender, purée the mixture in the pan until smooth. If you’re using a regular blender, transfer the pear mixture little by little to it and blend until smooth.

Press purée through a fine sieve and into a measuring jug and write down how many ml of purée you have. Return purée to the pan and add the sugar. You must add 275g of caster sugar for every 600ml of purée. My purée was 850ml so I added 390g of caster sugar.

Place pan over low heat and stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Turn heat up to high and boil for 15-17 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and becomes like very very thick syrup that holds its shape when spooned onto a cold plate.

Pour the hot jam into small sterilized jars and turn the jars upside down. (Read here on how to sterilize glass jars). Once the jam has cooled completely, put the jars in the refrigerator. It’s better to leave the jam sit for a couple of days before you try it. It will give it time to develop in flavor.

The jam will keep for about 3 months in the fridge. Once opened, it will keep for 1 month.


  1. I love pears! When I have many, I use my philips soup makers do cook this kind of jam: pears and vamilla are my favorite. Normally I had less sugar and no lemon juice. But next time I'll use your recipe. Meanwhile, there's plenty apples in my fruit bowl :D

  2. I love how you can see the little vanilla seeds... and how simple the process is! Thank you for the tip!

  3. Magda - we grew up calling this kind of thing "cheese." Please don't ask me why - I have no idea. I like "honey" much better. But Mom never made pear honey - apple, quince, and blackberry were our standards. Pear would be my choice over all of them. And, yes please, the recipe for the bread soon? ~ David

  4. I love pears and have not seen nor heard of this "honey" process. I am anxious to try it. Thank you!

    Also, Magda - yesterday I made your meatball recipe from several years ago - the one with fennel, coriander, etc. Wonderful - absolutely the best!

  5. This "honey" idea is new to me too. But I love it and was drooling reading your descriptions of pairing options! I am going to give this a try!

  6. This sounds so delicious! A perfect reason to go grab some pears before they're gone for the season.

  7. Ondina Maria — sure, you can try this with apples too! I hope you enjoy it if you make it.

    Nuts about food — I love those tiny vanilla seeds too!

    Cocoa and Lavender — hmmm, I have heard of cheese and I believe it is thicker than this. It is closer to "butter" but still, not quite. You should give it a try. The recipe for the brioche might come a little late because it takes many hours to make and rest and there's no daylight for me to shoot. I will have to start very early one day when I have free time.

    Liz — you must try it then! I bet you'll love it.

    Katie — I hope you will enjoy it if you do try it and perhaps you can drop by and tell how it went.

    Eileen — yes!

  8. I am a big fan of pears...a friend says I am "obsessed" due to my blogging about them often, but I just say I love them. This recipe is being added to my pear file for later. Stay warm.

  9. I'm not familiar with fruit honey but this looks lovely. It's the sort of thing my mum would enjoy - I must make some to share with her. She has a large Conference pear tree in her garden so if she likes the honey I'll know what to make with the next harvest!

  10. Teresa — obsessed huh? I'm kind of obsessed with this pear honey myself :)

    Tamsin — fruit honey is like a thin jam, with a honey consistency. I haven't seen it around a lot as a term, but I named mine that way. I hope you enjoy it if you make it after all.

  11. This sounds and looks heavenly! A wonderful combo. Perfect on homemeade bread.



  12. I made this early on Sunday morning (3/9) and today it is THE BEST! I had a little taste each day, but today the pear and vanilla were exquisite!

  13. random but your photography is absolutely magnificent. it's what keeps me coming back!

  14. This recipe looks wonderful. I have an abundance of pears so I'm looking for new recipes. Do you think you could put the jars in a hot bath canner to process so that they could stay on the shelf for up to a year?

  15. This looks wonderful! I too love the specks.... and the honey consistency :) Do you think I could freeze this without compromising the texture?

  16. This is the fourth or fifth year I've made this lovely Pear and Vanilla Honey. It comes out delicious every time. Very sublime flavor, to me perfect with just vanilla bean, sugar and barely a hint of lemon. The pear flavor dominates. I tried another recipe online for a similar pear sauce that added spices and it tasted too much like cinnamon applesauce. So now, THIS is the recipe!