My grandmother was quite a cook. She had many recipes that were a handful of this and a handful of that. Some of our favorites were the things she made from pears. The neighbors had an old and not-well-cared for pear tree that hung over the fence up in my grandparents' pasture. They let her pick all the pears on her side of the fence. So as fall neared, there was always something made with pears at Grandma's house--pear butter, pear jam, etc.
Recently we were all chatting online about what to have for our family Thanksgiving. I brought up the subject of Grandma's relish and asked if anyone had the recipe. My sister said that it was made from pears, which was a complete surprise to me. I had no idea! My brother chimed in and told me he never liked beans, but the sweet taste of that relish made it all palatable for him. None of them, not even my mom, had the relish recipe. So that started me on a recipe hunt.
I contacted some cousins on Facebook, but none of them had it either. So then I contacted a cousin who was always involved in organizing our family reunion and asked if he would put out a call on the family email list to see if he could find a copy. However, when I explained what recipe I was looking for, he knew exactly where to find it. As it turned out, his mom had used the recipe when he was a kid and it had been published in a Boy Scout cookbook--and he still had a copy. Happy days!!
When I got the copy from him, it turned out that it was cooked and had a lot of sugar as well as flour in it. I was surprised. I thought it was one of Grandma's pickled veggie recipes. So I decided to use the recipe as an inspiration for a fermented pear relish. My sister said she would make the original version and we will do a taste comparison at Thanksgiving. Rather, they could do a taste test. Being gluten free, I don’t taste anything with flour.
I started searching on line and reading various recipes for fermented pears and from that came up with a recipe. I decided to leave out all sweeteners, vinegar, etc, so I could see how it would taste just fermented. I consulted my Noma book to get an idea of how much salt and how long to ferment. I figured I would make enough that we could try adding stevia to one small batch and maple syrup or honey to another, plus have some plain for the taste test.
I decided to use 2% sea salt as detailed in the Noma book. That means I weighed all the veggies and fruit after they were cleaned and pulsed to fine pieces in the food processor and multiplied the weight by .02 to get 2%. My salt would be 2% of the weight of the veggies and fruit. That was a little over one tablespoon for the particular batch I was making. You should use a pure sea salt with no additives. Your typical iodized salt may interfere in the action of the Lactobacillus that do all the fermenting.
I really like the Noma book (product link) because it is divided into chapters based on the type of ferment (in this case lacto ferment) and gives an in-depth description at the beginning of each chapter of the science of that particular ferment. I admit I am a science geek (two degrees in biology) so not everyone will find it as interesting as I do, but it is still very helpful if you want to get in depth into fermenting. It helps me feel more confident when coming up with my own fermented recipes.
I sprinkled the salt over the veggies and fruit and let it sit for about 30 minutes in the bowl. Quite a bit of brine was pooling on the bottom of the bowl, so I packed it into a couple of quart jars. I use a large metal (no reactive) spoon and a canning funnel (product link), which makes it much easier to get it into the mouth of a canning jar without spilling. Pack the fruit and veggies down slowly and steadily to get all the air pockets out and push all the pieces of the ferment down under the brine. I have a wooden pickle packer (product link) that works great for this.
I mixed up a solution of 1 teaspoon salt to 1 cup water to pour into baggies to act as a weight to keep all the floatie bits down under the brine. I used a freezer grade, clean quart sized baggy and rinsed it first on the outside with the hottest water I could stand. I stuff the baggy into the top of the quart jar and poured in salt water (1 tsp salt to 1 cup water, just in case it leaks), using a wooden spoon to gently push the baggy around against the sides of the jar so the water in the baggy spreads out and covers the entire top of the ferment. Leave room to stuff the top of the baggy in the jar so you can put a lid or cover on top. I use the silicone nipple lids and really like those, but you could just add a clean cup towel or a few layers of cheese cloth and secure it with a rubber band. Some people use clean coffee filters, but I have not tried that and cannot speak to how well it works.
I set the jars back on a corner of the cabinet out of the sun and let them sit for six days. Times can vary according to how warm your kitchen is. I am making this in winter and we keep our house about 68 degrees. I tested after six days but in warm weather, with no air conditioning, I would test in about 4 days. It also depends on your personal taste regarding ferments. I like things a little crunchy, so rarely let mine go more than a couple of weeks at the most unless I am making something like pepper sauce, which ferments much longer. In this case, six days was just right. The relish was a little sweet from the pears, but tart, and the pears still had a little crunchiness. I tested the pH and it was at 3.5. I used an inexpensive pH test strip kit and always let ferments go until I can get at least 3.5.
My husband and I both liked the flavor of the ferment like it is, so I did not add any additional sweetener or vinegar. I think it would be good poured over a block of cream cheese and scooped onto crackers for a little holiday treat. I like it plain with crackers for a snack and we have eaten it with beans, omelets and on top of chicken posole and loved it. I had it on top of oatmeal one morning with a little honey drizzled over it and really liked it though my family was grossed out. “Ew, relish on oatmeal? Doesn’t it have onions in it?” But then I like savory oatmeal as well, with a fried egg on top.
I can’t say yet how long it will last in the fridge, but at the rate we are eating it, I don’t think that is going to be an issue. Being fermented, I would expect it to last at least a couple of months in the fridge, but time will tell.
If you are new to fermenting, here is a list of products you might find useful. These are all products I own and use.:
Hi there! I am Jeannine.
I believe that a holistic and balanced approach to life is a must when living with an autoimmune disease. I share gluten and dairy free recipes and all the other things I do here. I just like doing stuff and making stuff.
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