Although the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” was made for the holidays, I find the lyrics playing in my head as I stroll down the aisles of the farmers market these days. Tomatoes of all colors, crisp cucumbers, zucchini of every size, bags full of sweet corn piled high, winter squash, pears and apples just starting to arrive. It’s the true essence of a beautiful summer meets fall collision.
I also enjoy listening to the chatter on Twitter and in the office, people bouncing ideas off one other for what to do with their over abundant gardens. Fortunately, one of these conversations worked out quite nicely for me, as I was gifted 4 pounds of these gorgeous little Seckel pears from a co-worker of Brian’s whose tree is plumb full this year. We ate several of them straight from the bag and sliced onto socca with blue cheese, honey and walnuts.
Seckel pears are the sweetest and the smallest of the pear family and look like a blushing bosc, which you’ll commonly find in grocery stores.
They have a delicious spice flavor to them and a fresh crispness even when ripe. Those qualities make them perfect for simmering and preserving into this Caramel Cardamom Pear Jam. Swoon……
This recipe is a slight adaptation from the master preserving wizard herself, Marisa of Food in Jars, who made this brown sugar based pear jam. With the addition of flaky sea salt and double the simmering time, this version resembles caramel decadence in jam form.
The brown sugar boils down into a sticky, sweet mess, and the addition of cardamom is what autumn comfort is all about.
Cardamom is one of my favorite warming spices, such a lovely match to the slight spice of the seckel pears. I ground the seeds of the green pods with a mortar and pestle, it’s scent so unique – a hint of eucalyptus and citrus and cloves.
Used this way, the spice is quite potent, which is why you’ll see two measurements – one for if you grind it yourself, the other if you buy it pre-ground, where exposure to air tames it down a bit.
Getting this jam to set couldn’t be easier. It naturally happens as the fruit simmers for an hour and the juice of a lemon at the end gives it the acidity it needs for canning safety, no artificial pectin needed.
I peeled half of the pears, but left the others with the skin on because I like a little bit of texture. (If you like something completely smooth, this Vanilla Chai Pear Butter is delicious too.)
The end result is lush preserves that with the addition of a hint of salt, give off a homemade caramel taste.
Its ideal match is a fresh slice of sourdough bread, but let me tell you, it’s amazing on ice cream or stirred into steel cut oats.