A few issues back, we ran the following request in our Help Wanted section:
R.T. Morton, Downingtown, Pennsylvania, is looking for a recipe for canned Seckel pears. “My grandmother used to can Seckel pears. Three of the ingredients were orange peel, cinnamon sticks and Seckel pears.”
Seckel pears are small and round, with an olive green skin that frequently comes with a dark maroon blush. The small size allows these pears to be canned whole. And a history note: These pears may be the only true North American variety of the fruit. Discovered in the early 1800s, Seckels may have originated as a wild seedling near Philadelphia. It’s also possible that the seeds were scattered or fruit dropped by German immigrants heading West. These days they are most apt to be found in the Pacific Northwest.
Terry Moffitt, Big Lake Township, Maine, writes, “I hope this recipe might help R.T. relive some scrumptious moments from his grandma’s preserving. I have an old cookbook titled ‘Preserving and Pickling,’ circa 1913. In the book, they’re called ‘Sickle Pears.’” The spelling difference is probably due to similar pronunciations of the pear and the farming tool.
• 1/2 generous cup whole cloves
• 4 to 5 cinnamon sticks, 5 inches in length
• 1/4 cup clean, sliced ginger
• 7 scant cups sugar
• 2 cups vinegar
1. Peel desired quantity of pears, and weigh them to perhaps 7-pound increments.
2. Gather spices in cheesecloth and fashion like a bag; set aside.
3. In preserving kettle, place sugar and vinegar. Bring to boil, and add pears. Continue boiling until pears are tender.
4. Place pears and syrup in stone crock, and lay spice bag on top. Close crock tightly and keep in cool place.
Note: Terry writes, “I can’t help but wonder if the ginger in this recipe might be substituted with orange slices, as they were perhaps more easily obtained by R.T.’s grandmother. I often replace ginger with citrus such as lemons or oranges; I find them somewhat interchangeable.
“I have made this recipe in a big stone crock, without peeling the pears and even leaving the stems on, ladling out as much as needed for a quick snack or wonderful accompaniment with dinner. These lasted for me in the crock all through the winter. I weighted down the pears with a stoneware plate and a liquid-filled jar on top of that to keep the pears completely immersed in the syrup.”
The original measurements for this recipe were in ounces and pounds: 1/2 ounce cloves; 1/2 ounce cinnamon sticks; 2 ounces ginger; 3-1/2 pounds sugar; and 1 pint vinegar.