Local guru of all things canned, jellied, and pickled, Marina Mertz was kind enough to let us in on her latest project, pear butter. We got the privilege to interview her on the her favorite kitchen tools, preferred produce to preserve, and of course the recipe to the delicious pear butter- worthy of eating straight out the jar.
Oh, and did we mention that when this gal isn't busy whipping up something delicious, she's running her own business producing beautifully handcrafted waxed canvas bicycle bags? I know, dream girl. So stay tuned for more recipes, projects, and pro tips from Marina.
What started your explorations in canning?
I attended a beginners class on canning at a sustainable living conference in 2008. This armed me with the knowledge to start canning but really the adventure began much earlier when I first got interested in cooking, canning is a natural extension of being in love with the kitchen and good food.
Where do you source the produce for your canning? Do you grow anything yourself?
I mostly source my produce from friends fruit trees or u-pick farms, my garden right now is a little small to support canning but hopefully as the fruit trees I have planting grow I will be canning more of my own produce. Most people are more than winning to share fruit especially if they know they will get jam out of it!
What are some of your favorite fall canning projects?
I mostly can in the spring/summer, which is when tomatoes, berries, figs, grapes and pears are in season. Pears and grapes are at the very end of summer and canning them always signifies the beginning of fall for me.
What is your favorite tool in your kitchen? In your home?
Can I pick more than one? A sharp knife is a must, my favorite knife is one made by Will Manning an amazing blacksmith. I also have been known to forget how to cook if I don't have cast iron and a gas range.
What is your favorite season?
Fall! The feelings of nostalgia, hope and potential always run strong during the brisk months. It also if when leafy greens come back into season and who doesn't love kale and arugula?
What advice would you give to novice canners/preservers out there?
Take a class, read some books arm yourself with knowledge and then experiment. Just do it. Learn what botulism is and then don't be scared of it. Be safe. Get a jar lifter. Study candy making a little and learn what sugar does at different stages of heat. Learn how pectin works and why. You basically can't fail, even if none of your jars seal and the jam is to sweet you can always just refrigerate it and make jam bars, or if it doesn't set and is too runny label is a fruit syrup and have a magnificent cocktail. Always ask for the jars back!
1/2 cup Raw Sugar Cane
Spices (optional): ginger, cardamon, star anise
1. Chop up sand pears whole, the stems/seed/peel - have pectin which will help it thicken.
2. Cook down with just enough water to allow the pears to not burn, I added star anise at this point.
3. When pears are soft, run them thru a food mill or sieve to remove any hard parts.
4. Put back onto stove and add up to 1/2 cup of sugar per cup of pears, a tbs or so of lemon juice per cup and whatever spices you are using, ginger and cardamom are awesome. Cook down until it gets a jam like consistency and then can!