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Growing & Preserving Pears

by Patti on 02/02/2011
Making Bartlett Pear Preserves

Pear trees are a great choice to grow in your garden. Closely related to apples, pears grow well in cool temperate climates, making them perfect for North American growers. They can tolerate cold winters and will bloom little white, five-petaled flowers every spring. Pear trees bear fruit from August until October, and the fruit comes in shades of green, yellow, red, and brown. Pear trees thrive in moist, fertile soil.

There are many varieties and types of pears. European pears are the classic type with the tapered-shape we often see in grocery stores and they are soft when ripe. Asian pears are more similar to apples, complete with a rounded shape. They are also much firmer than classic pears, even when ripe.

America is the third largest pear-producing country in the world, and Bartlett pears are one of the most commonly grown varieties. The first trees (known as the “Williams Pear”) were imported from England and planted on the estate of Thomas Brewer in Roxbury, Massachusetts (right where I live now). Enoch Bartlett purchased the estate and continued to cultivate these pears. He never new the exact name for this tasty variety, so as any good and humble gardener would do, he named it after himself! Decades later, the Bartlett pear’s true identity was revealed, but by then it was too late. The “Bartlett” was here to stay.

Growing pear trees is very easy. Most require a pollinator but, if you’re limited on space, consider the self-pollinating Stark® Custom Graft® 2-N-1 Pear tree from Stark Bro’s. Bartlett pears are hardy in zones 5-8, require full sun and bear fruit beginning in late August. Once Bartlett pear trees get going, they are quite prolific — some have been known to bear close to 400lbs of fruit! Bartlett Pears are also excellent for canning and baking.

Below is my How to Make Pear Preserves video and recipe:

Bartlett Pears for PreservesPatti’s Bartlett Pear Preserves

Ingredients:

  • 5lbs of Bartlett pears – yellow, green or red
  • 1 & 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 2 square inches of fresh Ginger root, peeled & cubed
  • 2 medium size lemons, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of water

Directions:

  1. Start by peeling & core your pears, then slice in half the long way.
  2. Place water & sugar in a pot & simmer until the sugar dissolves in the water (about 2 minutes).
  3. Cube ginger & thinly slice the lemons.
  4. Place the pears, ginger, lemon, & honey in the pot. Bring to a boil; simmer uncovered for about 1 & 1/2 to 2 hrs, or until syrup is thick. Allow to cool — this will help thicken the syrup further.
  5. Place pear preserves into mason jars, leaving a 1.4 of space at the top of the jar.

Pile of Bartlett Pears Cooking Bartlett Pears Canned Pear Preserves

To vacuum-seal your mason jars: boil a large pot of water, enough water so that the mason jars will be covered. Leave mason jars in for 20min. Remove mason jars & allow them to cool on the kitchen counter. The cooling process will finish the vacuum-sealing process.

Topics → Recipes, Tips

16 Comments

  1. peg permalink

    Do you put the lemons & ginger chunks in the jars as well, or those get left out after it gets cooked?

    • I put the lemons and ginger in the jars as well.

      • Glenda Gosey permalink

        I have what seems like a silly question. Concerning the lemons…do I slice them with the peeling on or do I peel them first? Thanks

        • It’s up to you, Glenda! Most people leave the peel on, but if you want to separately candy the lemon peel or use it for zest, it’s understandable to remove it instead of adding it to the jar.

          Personally, I feel that the lemon peels give the finished product an attractive look! Plus, it’s easier to slice the lemons with the peel on. ;)

  2. kris permalink

    Hi – Question for you. Looks like you’re not pressure canning. Is the amount of lemon you put in adding enough acidity? Also, simmering for 2 hours…doesn’t that damage most of the nutrients in the pears?
    Thanks.

    • You are correct, I am not pressure canning, I am using the water bath method of vacuum sealing the jars.

      Nutrient Loss
      In general with any type of freezing or canning there is a loss of nutrients. This is much more complex than I can get into here. There’s a lot more information about canning in general and pears in specific. With freezing, the initial blanching of fruit or veggies preserves the amount of nutrients with little initial loss, but the nutrients are depleted over time because of oxidation. Concurrently, when you use canning as the method of preservation the initial nutrient loss is higher than freezing, but the nutrients aren’t depleted overtime because no oxidation occurs. Pears are nutrient dense fruits and water soluble nutrients like vitamin C are the most depleted, but can be retained in the juices and added to the jar. With fat soluble nutrients like vitamin A there is little depleted.

  3. Don Swanson permalink

    What fruit tree spray is best for Asian Pears. I currently use Bonide Fruit Tree Spray but the pears and apples always act like they are burned after I spray them. Many leaves turn black and curl up. Many people say that you do not need to spray pear trees but I tried that last year and my asian pears where full of pear maggots in center/core area of fruit . Need advice for this year.

    • Don, each spray has a label that specifically lists the fruit trees it can be used on. Bonide® Fruit Tree Spray says it is not recommended for use on Pear or Asian Pear trees, but it can be used on apples. What you can use instead, for your pears, is the Bonide® Citrus, Fruit & Nut Spray during the growing season.

      Another thing to consider is the timing of your spray applications. If the temperature is around 85ºF, it is too hot to be spraying. This can actually cause a chemical burn on your tree’s foliage, which presents as dry, brown leaves. :)

  4. Sheryl Parnell permalink

    I live in zone 8 but it is becoming hotter and hotter here. We have had many consecutive 100+ days. What would I need to do to protect a young tree from this type of heat or should they be thinking of reassessing the zones?

    I believe I have lost my new peach trees due to the heat and I would think they could stand the heat better than pears??

    Thanks,
    Sheryl

    • Hi Sheryl. The USDA has recently reassessed the hardiness zones (find their most up-to-date chart here), but the information doesn’t apply to outstanding years — and this certainly has been one outstandingly unusual year for growing your own, and it has been especially hard on new trees trying to get established, regardless of their natural heat tolerance.

      Many people have resorted to drip methods of watering to avoid thirsty trees during the dry heat. Some people have even constructed temporary shade structures for their trees, using shade cloth that still allows sunlight to get to the leaves but filters the intensity. These materials, and more advice I’m sure, can be found at your local garden center. ;)

      • SJ Smith permalink

        I live in the low desert of S. Calif. Some years it’s a zone 8, others a zone 9 by definition. Temperatures over 100 will not harm your plants, if they have the right amount of water.

        I irrigate my trees once or twice a week, but I try to water deep. If you water too often, you’ll rot the roots and that is even harder on the plant than less water. I irrigate more when fruit is sizing up. Nearing ripeness, I back off and let the fruit sweeten. In the Winter, if we get an inch of rain a month, I don’t water at all. (besides, the tree is dormant). I may water once all Winter, if it’s reeeally a dry year. Once I see a hint that budbreak is approaching, I will water deep to encourage strong new growth…. but only once a month IF we don’t get rain.

        I also keep a compost layer on top of the soil to slow evaporation. The pear tree that is thriving for us, has a huge old root ball from a tree plopped on the ground near it. It’s so big, we need to borrow a tractor to move it; so it stays where it is. I believe it is protecting the water in the ground there, similar to a ‘rock well’.

        Hope it helps.
        Recap – wilted leaves mean either you’ve watered so much you rotted the roots, or you need to water one day sooner between waterings. Once the fruit is to size, the tree needs less water… but you want deep roots so you must water deeply.

  5. Jim permalink

    Just a general pear question. For cross pollination, how close do the trees need to be planted? My neighbor and I are considering planting 1 tree each.

    • Hi, Jim! For an optimal chance at pollination, we recommend planting pollinators within 50 ft of one another. Pollination can still occur at more or less of a distance, but 50 ft apart is recommended if you’re aiming for an ideal situation. :)

  6. Glenda Gosey permalink

    I think one lemon would have done the trick for me. LOL, I ended up with something closer to Lemon preserves. I lost most of the sweet good taste of my pears to the lemon. OH well, I will try again next year :)

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