When I was a little girl I spent most of my summer days at my grandparents’ house. It was an old house painted pink with lots of space for playing. It had a stone stair hall connecting the two floors and leading from the basement entrance all the way up to the attic. The huge basement was used for storing coal, potatoes and a whole array of homemade preserves – gooseberry jam, damson jam, raspberry syrup, apple juice, green tomatoes salad, sauerkraut, pickled pears, blackcurrant wine … It was also a great hide-and-seek place with plenty of dark corners under the shelves and behind the cupboards. The specious attic was home to all forgotten and unneeded things – a pair of old wooden skis, a real size straw yule goat and my old pram. The garden was huge or so it seemed for a small girl. It had beautifully arranged flower beds to the front of the house, fruit and vegetable patches to the side and an orchard to the back. There were all sorts of trees in the orchard – plum trees, cherry trees, apple trees, a pear tree and a gracious walnut tree. I spent many tasty moments just picking the fruit from the trees. The truth was there was always enough to snack on as well as gather and make jars and jars of preserves for later.
One day I was picking the pears with my grandmother, Zosia. As the pears were quite high up on the tree we were using a fruit picker – a long pole with spikes and a handy bag on the top. It was great fun picking pears like that and to me it felt like an upside down fishing. We would get two or three in the bag, put the pole down, empty the bag and pull it up again. Suddenly, one of the pear missed the bag and, as Newton’s law has it, went straight down to hit my grandmother in the eye. Somehow I did not loose it and rather than crying or screaming I ran home and called for help. I picked up the phone, dialed the number for my mother’s work and as she answered I resolutely said: “Granny’s got a pear in her eye.” “What?” my mum cried in disbelief and repeated loudly so that her all office could hear, “Granny’s got a pear in the eye!” And as she heard a more-or-less full report of the events, as closely as a seven-year-old myself could tell, she decided grandma needed to go to hospital. “Granny, mummy will take you to hospital now,” I said to my grandmother. “Good,” my grandmother noted and added, “I will get ready and wash my feet.”
It all ended up well. For both granny and the pear. Granny got an eye-patch for a few days and the pear got preserved in a jar with the vinegar syrup.
Pears in vinegar syrup
1 kg of firm pears
1/2 kg sugar
1/4 l white or clear vinegar
1/4 l water
a few sticks of cinamom
In a pot bring the water, vinegar, sugar and spices to boil. Peel, halve and core the pears (I left the stems on as it looks nice in a jar) and add them to the boiling syrup. On a very low heat simmer until the pears have softened but do not overcook. Once they are soft enough, arrange them in a steamed jar with cinnamon sticks and cloves. Allow the syrup to cool down and pour it into a jar as well.
The pears are a perfect combination of sweet and sour and are an amazing accompaniment for a roast turkey. To me they are the taste of summer locked in a jar. Hope you enjoy that as well.