Pears are delicious as a snack, added to a salad, poached in red wine, baked or grilled lightly and drizzled with honey and diced pistachios or pecans or topped with a tablespoon of creamy mascarpone cheese. A casual snack and wine pairing could be sliced pears coated by squeezing a half a lemon (to minimize the pear flesh from browning), add to an appetizer plate with some cheese varieties, some mixed nuts and served with unsweetened plain iced tea or a crisp Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or Rose'.
While there are countless pear varieties, only some are available in most areas of the country. Pears are fall to winter fruits, with the exception of Bartletts, which appear in summer. A number of varieties are imported when domestic pears are out of season. Each type has a distinct shape and color, with subtle differences in flavor and texture.
Asian pears (nashi, apple pears): Asian pears are the oldest cultivated pears known, originating in China, possibly as many as 3,000 years ago. They remain a favorite in Asian cuisine. Almost perfectly round, with pale yellow-green to russet skin, these pears look like a cross between an apple and a pear, although they are not a hybrid. The firm, aromatic pulp can range from juicy to slightly dry in texture, and from semisweet to bland in flavor. Unlike other pear varieties, most Asian pears are sold ready to eat, and they store very well even when ripe.
Anjou pears: The Anjou is the most abundant and least expensive of the winter pears. The Anjou is oval-shaped, and somewhat stubby, with smooth yellow-green skin and creamy flesh. It has a slightly blander taste than that of a Bosc or Bartlett. Anjou pears make a succulent fresh dessert pear and are firm enough for baking or poaching.
Bartlett pears: Popular Bartlett pears account for about 75 percent of commercial pear production. The Bartlett pear is harvested in summer, and is the principal variety used for canning. This pear is also often sold dried.Bartlett pears are medium sized and juicy. When ripe, this pear turns from dark green to golden-yellow, often with a rosy blush. Growers have also developed a red-skinned variety of Barlett pear, which tastes the same as the yellow.
Bosc pear: This aromatic, juicy-sweet, and finely textured pear has a long, tapering neck and rough reddish-brown skin. It holds its shape well when baked or poached.
Clapp pear (Clapp’s favorite): Sweet and juicy, this pear has very white flesh and a deep red blush over approximately 50 percent of its smooth greenish-yellow skin. There is also a completely red type of Clapp pear available. Clapp pears are well suited for eating raw, or for baking or poaching.
Comice pear: This squat pear has the reputation of being the sweetest and most flavorful. The Comice pear is too delicate for cooking, but makes a fine fresh dessert pear. Comic pears are the variety often included in gift boxes and fruit baskets. Its dull greenish-yellow skin may show slight blemishes and discolorations, which do not affect the flavor.
Forelle pear: A little larger than the Seckel, this small, bell-shaped pear is too small for cooking and is ideal for snacking. It has golden-yellow skin and freckles, called “lenticles,” that turn bright red during ripening. Forelle pears are very sweet, with flesh that is slightly firmer than that of most other pears. This variety is thought to have originated in Saxony. The name Forelle means “trout” in German, and indeed this pear’s brilliant red lenticles do resemble the colors of a rainbow trout.
Seckel (sugar) pear: This small chubby pear is the smallest of the commercially grown varieties. It has a grainy texture and a delicious spicy flavor. Typically brownish-yellow, it can sometimes have speckling (russeting).
Other pear products
Dried pears: Diced dried pears often come in dried fruit mixtures, but you can find dried pear halves in health-food stores and stores that specialize in dried fruit and nuts.
Pear nectar: Like most nectars, pear nectar is only about 35% juice.The remaining 65% is basically sugar water. And expensive sugar water at that. Consider canned pears and nectars to be desserts. Have them occasionally, if at all. Stick mainly to fresh whole pears.
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