We begin again, with a gift. Pears. A lot of pears.
After a soccer game a couple weeks ago I went to spend time with some good friends at their home in Leyden. Their home is a winding colonial estate, white, with a sprawling garden, field and woods behind. Inside, there is a plethora of Latin books, records, chinz armchairs and low-hanging lights that bathe the house in a warm glow. My favorite room is the kitchen, the first room entered upon arrival.
Like most old homes, the kitchen often functions as the gathering place as the ceilings are not so tall, the furniture is not so pristine and a variety of fires, steams, and heating devices create a comfortable atmosphere. The walls are a deep red and exposed boards remain sturdy despite a multitude of nails and hooks that have been hammered in to support gleaming copper pots, slotted spoons and bulbs of freshly dug garlic, still covered in earth.
Kitchens attract everyone, they have uncanny charm.
That day the honey had just been harvested from the bees out back. It puddled like liquid gold in grand silver caskets. Slowly, surely, Cornelia poured the viscous syrup into Mason Jars, occasionally pausing to run her finger up the side and bring a drip of honey to her mouth.
Behind her, butter and pears sizzled on a cast-iron pan. The aroma was head spinning. She told me she needed to use up her pears, someway, somehow. The fruit season has been prolific this year and it is all we can do to stop them rotting in the trees.
The next morning, I left with a bag bursting with small pears, dappled in the red and yellow, and her mother’s ancient pear chutney recipe on a yellowed index card.
And here follows the story.
Begin by washing the pears and cutting them into bite-sized cubes. Unless you detest pear skins, leave them on for texture and color.
Make it easier for yourself and cut the onions and mince the garlic before making the honey-vinegar base.
In a pot, allow the honey, sugar and vinegar to come to a boil. Once boiled, cook on medium for 5-7 minutes.
Add the pears, onions and remaining ingredients and cook on medium-low for 50 minutes to an hour. I found that using red onion gave it a nice, rosy color. You want to reduce the liquid as much as possible before overcooking the pears. The pears should not be tough or mushy, rather tender and easy to spear with a fork.
Once finished, spoon chutney into a jar and cool before storing in the fridge. Before adding to jar however, quickly fold in the fresh mint. The flavor will hold longer if the chutney is cooler and the mint doesn’t cook and get mushy. As it cools, the liquid should thicken and the sweet ginger flavor will intensify. If it doesn’t thicken, don’t worry; it will still taste the same! The chutney will last up to a week.
Pear-Ginger Chutney with Mint
3 Cups Pears (3 large pears), cubed
¾ cup white vinegar
1 cup white sugar
2 tbsp. honey
Roughly 1/8 cup fresh ginger
tsp. powdered ginger
1 small red onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped