Christmas, for us, means making stuff to give to friends and family. This is a lovely easy thing to make, and goes really well with cheese or cured meats.
- about 16 small-ish firm pears (Conference are good), peeled, with stalks left on
- 1 litre white wine vinegar
- 0.5 litres water
- 500g sugar (granulated)
- 4 star anise
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
- 1 tablespoon allspice berries
- 2 teaspoons juniper berries
- The zest of 1 lemon, peeled in large strips
- 1 teaspoon cloves
Boil up the water, vinegar, sugar and spices in a large pan with a lid. Make sure it’s a stainless steel or other non-reactive pan, or the vinegar will create pits in the surface!
Put the pears into the hot liquid, turn the heat down to a simmer, clap the lid on and leave the pears to poach for about 20 minutes. Take the pears out of the liquid and put them somewhere warm. Turn up the heat under the poaching liquid and boil it for about 10 minutes until it has reduced a bit and gone syrupy.
Divide the poached pears between 4 large-ish wide necked jars, previously sterilised. Pour the reduced cooking liquid over the pears, ensuring that each jar gets its share of the whole spices. If you want you can add a sprig of fresh rosemary to each jar – it looks pretty and adds a herby flavour. Seal the jars with vinegar-proof lids – either use parfait jars (the ones with rubber seals and metal clips), or proper Kilner jars, or improvise with wide-necked pickle jars and seal them with greaseproof circles and plastic-coated jar lids.
These pickled pears can keep for up to 6 months unopened in a dark cupboard. Once you do open a jar, keep it in the fridge and use up within two weeks.