Urban Preserving: Small Batch Seckel Pear Jam with Brown Sugar and Cardamom

November 17, 2011(updated on December 6, 2021)


I’m crazy for pears these days. I buy them without a plan for how I’m going to use them, just to be able to have them around to look at and munch on. Seckel pears are a particular weakness, followed closely by crunchy asian pears* and the bright, green Anjou. Though I’ve always been a fan of pears, I don’t remember a year where I’ve been quite so smitten by them.

cooking jam

I’ve had the above bowl on my dining room table since Sunday. It just looked so pretty and made things feel so very fall-like. Yesterday afternoon, I looked over and realized that the Seckel pears were dangerously soft. It was time to stop gazing and take a bit of action.

finished jam

I turned to one of my favorite, small batch cooking vessels – the 12-inch stainless steel skillet. You’ve seen me employ this pan before to good effect and I’ll confess right now that there have been many other undocumented batches of jam cooked in it as well. I love using a large, flat pan for these small batches because they make for such quick cooking times. Lately, I’ve been dreaming of adding a 6-quart saute pan for its jam-cooking surface area.

small batch canner

I cored and roughly chopped my pound and a half of Seckel pears, which gave me three scant cups of fruit. I heaped it into the skillet and added three quarters of a cup of brown sugar. I stirred them together until the juices started to run and then turned the heat on to high.

I let the jam simmer and sputter, stirring regularly, until the remaining juices were thick and sticky. Then I added half a teaspoon of cardamom and the juice of half a lemon. I continued to cook for just another minute or two, to give the spice and juice time to integrate.

Seckel pear jam with brown sugar and cardmom

When the jam was done, I scraped it into two prepared half pint jars and processed them in my favorite small batch canning pot (the 4th burner pot) for ten minutes. From chopped to cooling, this jam took just less than half an hour to make.

To my mind, this jam is the perfect thing for stirring into oatmeal. The gentle flavor of the pears with the spice of cardamom and the sweetness of brown sugar would combine so nicely with the creaminess of oats. It’d also be great spread on an oat scone or millet muffin.

*The asian pears are for eating out of hand, they are lower in acid than other pears and so can’t be used in basic jam recipes. They have to be heavily acidified for canning.

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43 thoughts on "Urban Preserving: Small Batch Seckel Pear Jam with Brown Sugar and Cardamom"

    1. I just wanted to make a less sweet jam. I started with that first 3/4 cup, thinking I’d probably need to add more. But once I tasted it during cooking, I determined that it was plenty sweet. And since it didn’t have any trouble setting up, I went with it.

  • Oh. my. goodness. I love seckel pears, and what a gorgeous way to get their flavor! I never would have thought of pairing them with cardamom…must try this!

  • Looks delicious. I’m hoping to see some seckel pears at the market here soon, I love the combo of pear and cardamom! And brown sugar!

  • This sounds so good! And I’m not even a huge pear fan… the texture of the raw fruit is a little unappealing to me. But cooking them down with cardamom and brown sugar? Ooooh, I could get down with that for sure!

  • Just finished making a batch of these preserves using comice pears, which were languishing on my counter. Oh my, what yummy goodness and so quick and easy! Thanks so much for the great idea.

  • Quick question: On your rave, I purchased a fourth burner pot earlier this year, but wonder about putting two jars in there to process. You don’t stack them, do you? Do two fit side-by-side?

  • I admit I, too, am a sucker for pears of all variety … thanks for the tip on Asian Pears though, I did not know they were of such lower acidity (although I’ve never knowingly canned anything but Bartlett). Well, now you have me in the mood for a pear, so … gotta run!

  • I have the same question as Brooke. The pot looks like it would be really handy, but for canning how do you handle the two jars? PS-I love your site! Have been on email list since a friend posted on FB this summer. Great ideas, great photos! Thank you!

    1. Jo, like I told Brooke, I stack the jars in this canner. I try to stagger them a little so the water circulates well, but even stacked one on top of another, they do okay in this little pot.

  • I made two batches of pear jam today based on your recipes – one with vanilla and one with this recipe. Even though I increased the amounts, they both turned out great! This helps so much with Christmas gifting!

  • Yum! It sounds so refined. Cardamom makes everything taste so exotic. And I love the idea of stirring it into oatmeal. That’s how I usually eat jams and fruit butters.

  • Hi there! Just discovered your website and am in love with it… I just started canning this year and I think your page is going to be loads of inspiration. thanks for sharing! Blessings!

  • I just passed up buying some Seckel pears because I didn’t know what to do with them. But now I want to make this! I do have one question: did you peel the pears?

  • Can’t wait to make this afternoon- it’s on the list along with the pickled cranberries. Thanks for all your amazing recipes- I love your blog.

  • On my third canning project of the day… Not precisely following the recipe so hopefully will still yield yummy results. Using 3 pounds of pears, juice of one lemon, 1 tsp cardamon, and used sugar in the raw (turbinado sugar) – out of brown. Hah, at this point I’m out of all sugar other than powdered. LOVE this idea of using the cardamon, it smells divine.

    1. replied too soon… once I went to add the cardamon I decided to try just a 1/2 tsp at a time… 1/2 tsp freshly ground was plenty with my 3 pounds of pears

  • I’m really intrigued by the small batch canner you show here. Living in Tokyo where the talk these days is of conservation, I like the idea quite a bit. I have a big hot water bath canner sent by a good friend who saw me struggling with a small pot on the stove with a cooling rack in the bottom to keep the jars off the bottom. I love having the water bath canner, but some recipes make such small batches I have a hard time giving myself permission to heat up all that water for a few jars. Can you offer any more details about its use, etc? Any thoughts about the larger one I spotted listed on the same page?

  • I just made the seckel pear jam tonight. It tastes divine! I want to spoon it all into my belly NOW but will jar them and spread out the divinity. Thanks for sharing so many wonderful recipes.

  • This sounds amazing! I found a 3 lb bag of seckel pears at of all places the dollar store this afternoon and knew that you had a recipe that I wanted to try, even though I couldn’t remember what! So I’ve got a bag of them sitting on my counter now. Couldn’t resist the great price! I’ll have to dig around to see if I have any ground cardamom, otherwise I may go with some fresh ginger or star anise instead. I know I have whole cardamom, but no spice grinder. Could I just wrap some seeds in cheesecloth and toss it in the jam while cooking maybe?

    1. You won’t get the same intensity of flavor if you use the whole seed pods, but you could let a couple swim around in the cooking jam and then pluck them out when the cooking is done. It will still taste good.

  • I love this combination. Normally you have to add pectin to pear jams– do the Seckels have enough of their own? I try to avoid adding it when I can.

    1. In small batches, you can get a soft set from even the lowest pectin fruits. That how this works. However, if you like a far more firmly set jam, you could add a bit of pectin, maybe a teaspoon or so of the powdered kind.

  • I just finished a batch of this angelic nectar. I came up with plenty of excuses to lick the spoon. I used my large skillet, as you suggest, which I had never done before. For a small batch like this it was perfect, as it lets the mixture spread out over a larger surface. The pears were getting quite thickened by the time I put it into a jar (pint size as I had a jar crisis and no half pints available.)
    Thanks for your great site.

  • Hi I am in the UK and just found your lovely site! When you say Brown sugar any particular kind. here we have Light Brown Soft Sugar and a Dark Brown soft sugar( smells more like Molasses)……… Can I double up your amounts to make a slightly larger batch?

  • Made a double batch with Bartlett pears and it was amazing. Gave all but my tasting jar away so I’m making more today. I did cook mine a bit too long and cut the pieces a bit too large for a nice spreadable jam, but had a nice thick chewy oatmeal topper (as was suggested).

  • Kuhn Rikon should give you a cut of every 4th burner pot sold…myself and 4 of my friends alone have bought them solely because of you 😉

  • Hi! I just recently found your website and I love your recipes! My husband loves the Pear Cinnamon Jam! I was wondering about the crystallized ginger you mentioned. I have some I would like to use, have you tried the crystallized version. Would you cut down on the brown sugar? Thanks!

  • I was following along on my phone to make it and only seeing the text part, and I never saw anything that mentioned using a masher on it (I do see the lovely picture up top now) . Soooo since I’ve never made pear jam, I just let it keep simmering to break down (and it didn’t, of course) and I ended up with candied pears in syrup. It had a great flavor though.

  • Hi, I love your site and wonder if you could advise me. I made a batch of pear butter similar to this recipe using European-style pears but forgot to add lemon juice before processing. Do I now need to freeze the butter or what can I do?

    1. I am unfamiliar with European-style pears, so I have no idea what their acid content is. The pears I typically encounter have enough natural acid to be safe for canning without an additional. I add it to recipes like this because I like the flavor balance it contributes. If you’re worried, freezing is a good way to put your fears at ease.

  • I made this jam for filling a Swiss roll and it was perfect! I added in lemon zest (because I had the lemon for juicing anyways) and a little too much cardamom to cut through the whipped cream heaviness, and I macerated the pears with the brown sugar overnight since mine were not extremely ripe or juicy. its not a spur-of-the-moment recipe that way, but very delicious! I put about half of the jam in my food processor to smooth it out for filling, but for oatmeal or toast I would definitely leave it chunky!
    amazing recipe I will definitely use it again when it’s pear season!