I have a weird relationship with pears. Like figs, I can’t stand them fresh- they have a weird texture but I love the flavor. So each year when the neighbor’s and our back-40 ancient pear trees start raining down fruit, I turn to preserving to take advantage of the bountiful fruit. My favorite way, and a staple in my homestead pantry, is vanilla pear jam.
This pear jam recipe was originally inspired from this Vanilla Pear jam recipe from Food in Jars. I’ve made several batches over the years, and have played around with the sugar quantity and used Pamona’s Pectin, and have arrived at what I consider the perfect jam. It can be eaten with fancy cheese, plain on toast or a scone, or with the humble peanut butter & jelly sandwich. Seriously, this jam is amazing. I have never had anything quite like it from the store. I makes perfect gifts, uses up lots of pears, doesn’t have pounds of sugar, and is just divine. You couldn’t ask a jam for more.
My vanilla pear Jam uses Pamona’s Pectin to set, or thicken, the jam. Pectin is something that occurs naturally in fruit, and some jam can set fine without pectin, like blackberry. Some, like pears, have very little natural pectin so you need to add additional pectin in order for it to set. Most commercial pectins, such as pouches of liquid pectin, rely on the added sugar to activate with the pectin, and quite a bit of it. While I’m not opposed to sugar, we eat a lot of jam in my house, and I just can’t bring myself to make something that’s 50-80% sugar!
I really like using Pamona’s because it activates from calcium, as opposed to sugar. This means you can use much less sugar in your jam, so your jam is more fruit than sugar. Pamona’s Pectin consists of two parts: calcium water and the powdered pectin. First you mix up the calcium water, which is just adding the given powder a measured amount of water. This gets mixed into your recipe. The pectin powder first gets mixed into the sugar, then added to the recipe. I buy mine at Whole Foods and you can easily find it online.
This pear jam recipe can easily be scaled up or down, just divide in quantities of 4. I’ve left the pectin measurements in teaspoons to make this easier. Because you blend the fruit up, it’s not necessary to cut the fruit very consistently, so you can cut up a mess of fruit very quickly. You do want very ripe fruit, so leave on the counter until soft. I use Bartlett pears, and harvest once I notice they start to fall off the tree, then leave on a tray until yellow. My fruit is imperfect, and I just hack out any wormy spots or bruises.
I would recommend using fresh vanilla beans, as older ones get more brittle and often break into small pieces when you’re scraping out the seeds. It’s much easier to fish out full beans than bitty bits of beans. Trust me, I know from experience. When you’re finished with them, don’t throw them out. Rinse off and let dry, and set aside to infuse sugar or add to vodka for extract.
I love this vanilla pear jam, and hope you will, too! If you’re new to canning, make sure to check out a reputable source for detailed instructions. The Ball website is a good place to start.
- yield: 11 half-pint jars
- 16 cups cored and chopped thin-skinned pears (no need to peel)
- 4 vanilla beans, split and scraped
- 4 cups sugar
- 5 teaspoons Pamona’s Pectin powder
- 10 teaspoons Pamona's Pectin calcium water
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine pears, vanilla beans and all the goodness that was scraped out.
- Cook over medium heat until the fruit is soft can easily be smashed with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Remove the vanilla pods. Use an immersion blender to break the fruit down into a smooth sauce. Add the calcium water.
- In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the pectin powder with the sugar, then stir into the fruit.
- Bring to a roiling boil and boil for 5 minutes.
- Fill jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace, and process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.