Characteristics: Comice pears come in both red and green varieties. Comice red pears, however, are still relatively new, having been first found in the orchard in the 1970s). Both red and green Comice pears have skin that breaks very easily, and they are very sweet, creamy textured, and juicy. It's popular in holiday gift fruit baskets, so it has become known as the "Christmas pear." These pears aren't ideal for poaching because of their relatively delicate nature and juiciness, but they're great for baking and eating with cheese. Highly prized by the French, enjoy this pear with a good French Brie or another soft creamy fromage.
Popular cooking methods include poaching (in wine, syrup, fruit juice, water) and baking. Pears shine in baked goods like tarts, pies, and cakes, as well as in jams, preserves, and chutneys. And because they are related to apples, it's generally understood that if a recipe calls for apples, pears can be substituted. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger complement the fruit in both edible and drinkable recipes.
1. Look for Pears that are Firm and Bruise-Free
Choose pears that are firm to the touch and don't have bruises or cuts. Some pears are wrapped in paper, which protects the pears and helps keep them unblemished.
2. Store Your Pears in Brown Bags
Pears will ripen off the tree. To ripen them at home, put hard fruit in a punctured paper bag and keep it at room temperature until the fruit is aromatic and gives slightly when pressed with your thumb. But beware: Pears ripen very quickly. Overripe pears are pulpy and the flesh will be mealy.
3. Peel Before Cooking
Peel pears before cooking them, as their skin grows tough when heated.
4. Use Lemon to Prevent Sliced Pears from Browning
Prevent premature browning by dipping cut pears in acidulated water (water mixed with a little lemon juice or vinegar). This works on European pears such as the Bartlett and Comice but not on Asian pears.
5. Grow Your Own Pears
While many of the pears presented in this guide can be found in your local supermarket, gourmet shop, or farmers' market, you can also order harder-to-locate varieties from online companies such as Harry & David. For the ambitious, however, you can try growing your own pear tree right in your backyard. Visit your local garden nursery or try an online nursery that specializes in fruit trees, such as Adams County Nursery.
Savory Pear Dishes
Perfect Pear Desserts