Ingredient of the Week, October 20: Pears
Juicy, soft, sweet pears are one of my favorite fruits, but the generic "pear" on produce charts doesn't do this fruit justice. There are many kinds of pears, and an increasing variety of pears are available at everyday grocery stores. Once you dip into the world of farmers markets, the variety can be mind-numbing!
So what to do when you want to add some pear to a salad? How about when a recipe calls for pears? If the recipe isn't specific, you can figure out which pear would work best with this easy guide:
Pears For Eating Raw
All pears can be enjoyed raw, either eaten out-of-hand or sliced into salads. Here's what you can expect, flavor-wise and texture-wise, from different pears:
Comice, Bosc, Red Anjou, French Butter, Bartlett
- Anjous are firm, mild-flavored pears.
- Bartletts are for when you want a really juicy pear. Really juicy.
- Bosc pears are wonderfully crisp, with a sweet flavor.
- Asian pears are full-on crunchy and very mild flavored.
- Comice pears are less grainy then classic pears, with a great clean and bright pear flavor.
- French butter pears and seckel pears can be eaten raw, but they need to be fully and completely ripe for the experience to be a pleasant one.
Pears That Keep Their Shape When Cooked
When cooking with pears you want one of two things: for the pears to fall apart or for the pears to keep their shape. In most cases, Bosc pears keep their shape best (even staying put as slices in a pear tart, for example), but Anjou pears are a good option, too. French butter pears are also reliable shape-keepers.
Pears That Fall Apart
Sometimes you want pears to fall apart when you cook them (the case of pear sauce or pear butter comes immediately to mind!). In this case it is to the Bartlett pear that you must turn. They look at heat and turn to mush! A mix of Bartletts and Bosc in a pie can be lovely - with the Bosc pears holding their shape as they're surrounding by a Bartlett-pear sauce.
Which pear is your favorite?