It is no secret that pears are one of my great loves of the fruit world. They have a delicate, flexible flavor that goes well with nearly anything (including vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and lavender). They work in fruit butters, jams, and chutneys. Many varieties don’t need to be peeled before cooking. And if you’ve never tried one, you should know that a pickled pear are one of life’s true delights.
Knowing my general appreciation for all things pear, it should surprise no one that a couple weeks back, I matched them up with a bunch of cranberries, to see how the two would jam together. Well, the results are in. Pears and cranberries make a very good team.
One of the things I like about making jams with cranberries is the fact that since they contain so much natural pectin, you’re able to dial back the sugar more so than with other fruits and still expect to develop a very nice set during cooking.
My normal ratio for jam is two parts fruit to one part sugar. You’ll notice that in this recipe, I shaved off a full cup of sugar and still wound up with a gorgeously set, plenty sweet jam.
Like so many of the jams I make, I kept this go-round fairly unadorned. It was just pears, cranberries, sugar, and the zest and juice of one little lemon. I like to keep the first pass simple, to ensure that the primary players work well together before I muck around with secondary layers.
Happy with the basic version, chances are good that I’ll come back to this formula again and tweak it with some ginger, or a few warm winter spices. You are welcome to add a pinch of this or that on your first pass, should you so desire.
Though I missed the obvious Thanksgiving window for this jam, I have a hunch that it still has many opportunities to shine before the year is out. I’m confident it will pair up nicely with a plateful of latkes in place the the traditional applesauce (Hanukkah starts in just over a week!). I know for a fact it is dreamy with a smear of fresh goat cheese. And as you head into the holiday baking season, consider filling a thumbprint cookie with a dab of this sweet-tart spread.
- 4 cups cored and chopped pears
- 4 cups fresh cranberries
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- Prepare a boiling water bath and 2 pint jars (or four half pints, eight quarter pints, or some combination thereof).
- Combine chopped pears, cranberries, sugar and one cup of water* in a large, non-reactive pot. Stir to combine and then let the fruit and sugar sit, off the heat, until the sugar has begun to dissolve, about 10 minutes.
- Once the sugar seems to be dissolving and the fruit has released some juice, place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. When the fruit begins to boil, reduce the heat a little and keep the jam cooking at a low bubble.
- Cook the jam for 15-25 minutes, stirring regularly, until it has reduced a great deal and begins to look thick and sticky.
- When the jam seems to be nearly done, stir in the lemon zest and juice.
- When you've arrived at a texture you like, remove the jam from the heat and funnel into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
- Once time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel. When jars are cool, remove rings and test seals. Sealed jars are shelf stable. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.
- Makes 2 to 2 1/2 pints
*Normally I don't add water to jams, but the cranberries make it so thick during cooking that it can seize up before the pears are soft. A little water makes it more workable.