I got back from walking the dog this morning to find a 25lb frozen tuna on our welcome mat….and the funny thing is, I wasn’t really all that surprised.
Almost since the first day I started this blog 23 months ago, food started finding its way to me. I don’t grow a lot; aside from herbs and some salad greens, it turns out that my thumb is rather black. And to be fair, the shade in our back garden has grown more than anything else in the 8 years we’ve lived here. You see, we’re surrounded by trees, mostly cedars and firs — tall, majestic spires that stand to inspire, but also conspire — blocking out the sun’s rays and spreading their far-flung, hungry roots to consume my carefully composted soil.
But (I think) because I spend a good part of my day writing and talking about food, people know how much I appreciate it fresh from the ground or still warm from the oven. And so, living as we do in a small rural community bursting with extraordinary growers, we occasionally come home to a tasty treasure here or there: peppers on the porch, jars of sauerkraut and sweet & sour pickles on the stoop, or a dozen of the biggest heads of elephant garlic you’ve ever seen in a box on the kitchen table. (Sometimes I forget to lock the front door.)
The pears for my most recent batch of infused booze come from Corbett House here on Pender. And once again, although it had been my intention for over a week to go over to see Eve and John and collect a bushel, these pears found their way to me without me ever leaving the house.
My neighbour Candace came over with them. Candace regularly performs heroic feats of neighbourliness — to tell you the truth, these pears are nothing compared to what she’s done in the past, but they couldn’t have come at a better time. I bought the brandy just the day before.
So Candace, this batch of my favourite digestif is dedicated to you. You’ll find a mason jar of it on YOUR front porch when you get home from work.
Everything I learned about making Pear Brandy, I learned from Married with Dinner. Anita seems to know what she’s doing, so I do things
exactly pretty much the way she does. The result is a slightly sweet, flavour-rich sipping brandy that is perfect after dinner, dessert and coffee are done for the night.
Wash, trim, core and cut up 6 medium-sized pears. Do not peel them. I had some sort of major 30 minute brain-fart that had me remove every last little bit of peel from this batch before I took a Mental Beano and realized that I had just removed all of the pears’ essential oils (and therefore an enormous amount of the flavour).
Place the pears in a scrupulously sterile jar, then pour a 750 ml bottle of half-decent brandy over to cover. Cover and store in a dark cupboard for 3 to 4 days.
Strain the brandy into a very clean bowl or large measuring cup. Do not press on the fruit, as any liquid you expel will be cloudy. (I save the booze soaked fruit in the freezer to make a booze-inspired baking project another day.)
At this point, you will see the grit in the bottom of your bowl. No one ever said pears weren’t gritty. But since gritty brandy leaves something to be desired, it’s time to line your strainer with 4 layers of cheesecloth or a basket-style coffee filter. Filter your infusion at least once. You may have to filter it up to 2 or 3 times before the liquid is clear and grit free.
Once the filtering is done, use a funnel to pour the brandy back into it’s original bottle. The dark glass protects this rather fragile infusion from the light and helps prolong its life. Keep in the fridge and use or gift it within a week for maximum flavour. It will keep for months, but the pear flavour is at its crispest in the early days.
Oh, and the tuna? Actually, he was expected…a friend bought one at the same time we did last year, but never got around to butchering it. So while it defrosts in the fridge over the next 48 hours, I’m going to pour myself another pear brandy and hope my hardest that a tuna’s thick skin protects from freezer burn — ’cause we’re splitting that baby even-steven — 2 loins a-piece, and all I have to do is pull out the biggest knife I’ve got.