Pear overload

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone! Happy 28th birthday to my little brother (and to my mom, and to all the other mothers who are or have taken the name of this holiday quite literally to mean welcoming new babies to the world.)

This weekend we did a whole lot of cutting up fallen trees and felling damaged trees from the crazy storm that swept through our property. One very sad casualty was the 100-year-old apple tree right off our back porch that was crushed by a rogue locust tree the guys cut down. Their guide rope snapped and the tree ended up just brushing our gutter, but annihilated the apple tree. It was on its last legs, propped up with an old post, but we were hoping to keep it alive another season to try to graft it. It had been planted by my great grandfather.

Anyway, as it’s not particularly safe to operate a chainsaw with a baby on your back, my contribution to the storm cleanup this week was trying to preserve the windfall of pears that had been blown from our trees in the storm. They were slightly underripe when I picked them up off the ground, but at the same time almost universally bruised or cracked from their fall, so it was a race against the clock to get them processed.

I took zero photos and have no recipes to share with  you. The Baby has been napping for two hours (!!!) and is due to wake up any second, so here’s just a short list of things I made with the pears:

  • Pear sauce! Just like applesauce, but with pears. Organic and with no sugar added, this makes a great baby food. And the cooking helps soften and sweeten the harder, greener, most underripe pears. I froze a little under two gallons of it and with the other gallon or so I made…
  • Pear sauce bread. I adapted this recipe  based on what was in my pantry, using only whole wheat flour, not bothering to grind the oats, using plain full-fat organic yogurt rather than sweetened Greek yogurt, and using pear sauce that still had pretty big chunks of not-too-mushy pears in it. I also didn’t add in any extra fat (coconut oil or butter) since the yogurt was full-fat. I just adjusted the amount of yogurt so that the batter was the appropriate texture/wetness. It turned out pretty good, like really dense bran muffins but moist because of the pears. We’ve eaten two loaves and there are two in the freezer.
  • Pear pie with a bacon-grease crust and oat crumble topping. (This I made with the riper pears without pre-cooking them.) I’ve been straining and refrigerating our bacon grease for awhile now, and while I’ve done some vegetable sauteeing with it, I needed to use it up and have been considering it for pie crust for awhile. I did a little Googling and ended up just sort of eyeballing the flour-to-bacon-fat ratio with a tiny bit of ice water. It didn’t roll out great, but it ended up with a surprisingly nice texture. It definitely had a hint of bacon flavor, but with the pear filling, it was good! I adapted this recipe for the pie filling/topping.

All in all, I was able to save about 10 pears that were undamaged and could ripen and be eaten raw.

So that’s been my weekend. I find myself getting a little overwhelmed during harvest season, not wanting anything to go to waste but also not wanting to spend all waking hours blanching tomatoes and making pepper jelly (another thing I did this weekend), but it does make winters nicer to have access to this stuff, and it sure helps our budget while we’re living on one income, plus whatever I can earn freelancing.

I’ve got a little pear sauce left. Anything else I should try to make with it?

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The pears – after the storm, before I cooked them. (Or, in most cases, before the deer ate them.)
Pear overload

A Sunday Storm, and a jagged horizon

This weekend was nice, as we neglected our endless to-do list a bit and I hosted a meeting of the craft club I started almost two years ago now (more on that…someday. I was hoping to do a comprehensive post with charming pictures to go along with it, but The Baby was too rowdy for me to take pictures. I’ll get to it eventually.)

Anyway, yesterday evening, The Husband, The Baby, my parents, brother and I were sitting around our kitchen table eating dinner as we have been doing together on Sundays since we moved out here. The sky had been threatening (welcome) rain for an hour or so, and suddenly it started to rain hard.

Our house is almost all windows, and my parents were marveling at how hard it was raining. I, a hardened cynic when it comes to bad weather (probably a knee-jerk reaction to my mother’s insistent demands for us to go to the basement all the time in childhood lest we be swept up into tornadoes–how we scoff at our parents’ desires to keep us safe!), kept eating with nonchalant, “Uh huh, I see it”s.

It was getting dark though. The wind was picking up. The hard pelting rain turned into hard pelting hail. The world turned white outside from the sideways spray of precipitation. All at once, everyone at the table but me and The Baby rose from their seats and decided we had all better skedaddle into the basement, for real. (Looking up from my food, I quickly unbuckled The Baby from his high chair and followed suit. The Baby brought his corn on the cob with him.)

As the first of us hit the top of the stairs, the power went out. We watched from the basement window as the storm left just as quickly as it had come. When it seemed safe, we went back upstairs to assess the damage.

We’re really, really lucky, but this is also the worst storm we’ve ever had on the property, going back as far as my dad can remember.

There wasn’t a tornado, but sudden strong winds whipped the tops off big, leafy trees. It toppled several of the dozens of dead ash trees (ash borers, frown). In the woods around my parents’ house, several old growth trees that my dad had spared from loggers were uprooted, leaving gaping cavities in the dirt the size of small craters.

Last night The Husband helped my brother and dad clear the half-dozen trees that had fallen from our property across our neighbors’ driveway. Both of our driveways had been blocked too, ours by a big thorny locust tree.

It also knocked every last near-ripe pear off the two pear trees near our barn. I strapped The Baby to my back, grabbed a five gallon bucket and salvaged what I could, but most of the pears had hit the ground so hard they were practically shattered.

We are really lucky–power returned at around midnight last night (so my heroic act of eating all the ice cream out of the freezer turned out to be unnecessary), and more importantly, nobody got hurt, and our house, my parents’ house and all our vehicles were unscathed.

The Husband called in from work today to help with the damage, and so did my brother. We took turns looking after The Baby and helping out outside. We spent all day clearing out the biggest branches around the house. I washed a bucket of pears and have cooked two batches of pear sauce with a lot more to go.

This is a big setback. We already have so much to do to try to restore this property to its former well-kept state (not to mention kicking off any of the half-dozen or so pipe dreams we’ve got cooking). And while it is a great relief to have come through the storm unharmed, I feel something a little like grief seeing great old trees broken, jagged and felled in every direction I look.

Here are some pictures of the damage, including one of me looking like straight up garbage. You’ll notice I’m suffering from “South Carolina eye,” allergy eyes that haven’t plagued me since moving back up from the pollen capital of the world. I also have twisted my stretched out maternity tank top into the straps of my ill-fitting nursing bra and am wearing a bandana over my inexcusable hair-ball (calling it a mom bun would be generous to the point of absurdity) — I had to wear The Baby on my back to pick up pears and he’s figured out how to rip out handfuls of hair if I don’t wear something to block him. Anyway, I’m sharing this photo with you, Internet moms, in the spirit of openness, and knowing you’re not going to judge me. Don’t let me down.

 

 

A Sunday Storm, and a jagged horizon