I love St Patty's Day.
No, I'm not Irish - not even a wee bit - but that doesn't mean I don't have a few favorite Irish traditions.
The day is fast approaching when I'll be putting a hefty chunk of beef brisket into a 6 gallon crock of flavorful brine, so that 3 weeks from now we'll be eating my very own version of corned beef.
More than once I've had a dinner guest say "I didn't even know I liked corned beef!". I'll admit I'm proud of the fact I've turned quite a few friends & family members into home-cured corned beef believers.
Along with corned beef & cabbage, I'll be making a few customary side dishes, like colcannon and Irish soda bread, and we'll serve a variety of Irish beer to wash it all down. (I still don't know if I'm supposed to chill the Guinness or not, so I leave half of the bottles at room temperature in an attempt to make everyone happy.)
To burn off those extra calories I'll join several friends in running Seattle's 27th Annual St Patrick's Day Dash. Like a couple thousand other people, we'll be wearing goofy costumes. You've probably never seen a group of human "pots-o-gold" wearing shiny gold tutus jogging down the street, but I promise to show photographic proof in a future follow-up post.
One new recipe that might become a March 17th tradition is a creative fruit-based candy, made from fresh pears & Chardonnay. The addition of white wine in my Pear Jelly Candies isn't really Irish, but I have a feeling that if you make these for someone you love, you might just get lucky.
Start with beautiful fresh pears...D'Anjou, Bosc or golden-ripe Bartletts, which I've shown below.
Chop them up and throw them in a pan with some white wine (or water, which works equally as well.)
While they are cooking, line a pan with parchment paper.
By the way, it's easier to set the pan on a piece of parchment paper first, trace around the pan with a Sharpie, then cut out the paper to fit the pan.
When the pears are cooked they'll probably look a lot like this. They should be soft all the way to the core when you pierce them with a knife.
Spoon the cooked pears into a food mill that is set over a bowl.
If you are going to follow my exact recipe, the entire batch, which is one pound of pears, will fit in the food mill...
... which makes this step go pretty quickly. Just start cranking....
...and within a few minutes you will have separated the pear puree from the unwanted peels, seeds, cores and stems.
Pour the puree back into the pan, along with the sugar, and mix it together well before putting it back on the stove.
Bring to a boil for approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until mixture is reduced by about 1/3.
While pear mixture is reducing, pour 1/2 cup of wine (or water) into a small bowl and sprinkle with gelatin. Stir lightly to mix, then set aside so gelatin can soften.
When pear mixture has reduced, add gelatin mixture and whisk it all together until smooth. Bring mixture back to a boil, and set a timer for 2 minutes. When the timer goes off the puree is ready to pour into the parchment-lined pan.
Let it cool to room temperature, then pop it into the fridge for 3 or 4 hours. It will set up nicely. It will be firm, but slightly transluscent. In fact, that you can probably tilt it on it's side and almost see through it!
Now it's time for the really fun part. Sprinkle sugar on a work surface. I prefer to use a parchment paper-lined baking sheet for my work surface so that I can keep the sugar contained and since it's lined with paper, clean-up is a breeze. Just crumple up the paper and you're done.
Loosen the solid sheet of pear jelly candy with a spatula...
...and invert it onto the sugared surface, then sprinkle the exposed surface with some of the extra sugar from the pan.
Okay now for the really really fun part. You can either cut it into squares using a knife, or use small cookie cutters to stamp out pretty shapes. I like my small Valentine's Day-themed cutters for this project.
(I used an 8 x 8 pan, and the "X" & "O" are about 1" high.)
Depending on the humidity level, the Pear Jelly Candies might have a tendency to get sticky* or shiny, so keep them separated and sugared. You can prepare the recipe ahead of time, up to the point where you invert them onto a sugared surface. Just store them tightly covered in the pan in the refrigerator for a few days, then invert them onto a sugared surface and cut them out the day you are planning to serve them.
*Sugar has "hygroscopicity", which means it absorbs moisture. With sugar being solid, it absorbs moisture in its surrounding air. Therefore, sugar is hygroscopic because it is a solid that does not contain much moisture. That sugar coating turns sticky in humid conditions.
Even if the Pear Jelly Candies get slighty tacky to the touch, they'll still be terrific, you'll just need an extra napkin or two.
Fresh pears are perfect for this project. They're an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, copper, and vitamin K, and besides being nutritious, their unique flavor is concentrated in these Pear Jelly Candies, making them a "naturally" tasty treat!
> For more juicy pear goodness, please check out USA Pears <