What Makes a Perfect Pear?
If you have ever tasted a perfectly ripe pear that it's sweet, succulent, juicy and full-flavored and want to repeat the experience, then you should read on.
There is a lot of technique involved in producing the perfect pear and Tom Goff can tell you all you might want to know about it. He starts his discourse with a confident statement that Kelseyville in Lake County, the location of his 5th generation family pear orchards, is the Pear Capital of the World. He goes on to explain that it's cool nights and warm days in Lake County, north of San Francisco, that provide ideal conditions for growing high quality pears.
In addition to these essential day and night temperature fluctuations, producing the perfect pear also depends on knowing when to pick the fruit, according to Tom. Most fruits and vegetables benefit by ripening on the plant. But pears are different. They are never left to ripen on the tree because they start invisibly rotting from the inside. So knowing when to pick a hard, unripe pear that will ripen properly off the tree is not an easy job. If you've bought unripe pears in the supermarket with the hope that they would ripen in a few days only to find that they never do, you may have wondered why. Here's Tom's definitive explanation:
How Pears Ripen
For a pear to ripen properly after harvesting, it must be picked when the sugar and pressure (not too hard and not too soft) are at their peak. If picked before the sugar reaches its peak, the pear will soften ("ripen"), but it won't be sweet. If picked before the pear has reached maximum pressure, it will not soften -- a common problem with most supermarket pears.
To ensure that their pears ripen perfectly, the Goff fmaily employs two methods:
Early and Late Varities
Goff Orchards produces two types of pears:
(available from October - January)
|Red Sensation||Stark Crimson||Bartlett||
|Bartlett||The traditional, classic pear. It's somewhat gritty and ripens quickly after harvesting. This versatile pear can be used for canning and eating raw.|
|Stark Crimson||Just the opposite of a Bartlett, this pear is not gritty and has a smooth light flavor. It's best for eating raw. When the pear is ripe, the red skin becomes smooth and slightly pinkish.|
|Red Sensation||A variety of Bartlett, which was not commercialized because hybridizers were breeding for a red skin and instead it turned out to be part red and part green. The developers felt that consumers would not be attracted to the variegated appearance so they didn't popularized this variety. That's unfortunate, according to Tom, because it's a great pears for eating raw and for poaching.|
|Bosc||The only pear variety that can be ripened on the tree. It's best for cooking.|
|Comice||Best for eating raw.|
You'll find Goff at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market from mid-Sept through about January. You should definitely plan your holiday menus around Goff's Lake County pears! (See recipe below.)
How the 5th Goff Generation is Cultivating the
The Goff brothers, Dan and Tom, now run the business. Dan Goff handles all the growing as well as sales to wholesalers and a few selected supermarkets, such as Molly Stone and Tower Market in San Francisco. Tom, who is a carpenter during the week, is devoted to promoting his family's pears at farmers' markets around the Bay Area on weekends.
The Goff's are installing their own sorting and packing equipment so they'll be able to grade and pack their own pears to meet the U.S.D.A. standards. They will then be able to bypass the wholesale packing houses and sell pears under their own label.
Watch for the Goff label to take the pear market by storm!
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The Best Poached Pear Recipe
6 firm, but not green pears (without blemishes)
2 cups sweet wine such as Essensia, etc. (I use a Chinese cassia-flavored wine called .)
6-8 cups water (or enough to cover the pears)
2 cups sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- Peel whole pears, leaving stem in tact.
- From the bottom, carefully remove the inner core without breaking the flesh.
- Combine water and sugar.
- Cover with wax paper or parchment paper that has been scored to enable steam to escape.
- Bring to boil and reduce to a simmer.
- Carefully remove parchment, immerse the pear and cover again with parchment.
- Simmer for 2 hours.
- Add wine and simmer for 90 minutes.
- Add lemon juice and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Let cool and refrigerate overnight, covered with parchment.