Jam, in my mind, is a summer creation. I associate the sticky process of making jam with fresh berries, but that's not always the case. Frozen berries can make excellent jam. And jam is not reserved just for berries.
I certainly broadened my jam repertoire this summer with new creations involving tomatoes, basil and ground cherries (not all in the same jam). This fall, I fell in love with my cranberry jam creation. And a surplus of pears led to my latest jam, Vanilla Pear Jam.
This jam retains the distinct texture of the pears and combines their sweetness with flecks of vanilla. This jam was an experiment for me with whole vanilla beans, which might become a staple in my kitchen. There's something satisfying about using ingredients in their purest form.
Vanilla Pear Jam
8 cups chopped pears
4 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans
Chop the pears into fairly uniform pieces, removing the cores but leaving the skins intact. Split vanilla beans down the center, and scrape out the tiny seeds. Combine pears and sugar in a large, heavy-duty pot. Add both the vanilla bean shells and the seeds. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the pears are soft enough to mash with the back of a spoon.
Remove pears from heat, and remove the vanilla bean shells. Puree the pear mixture in a food processor or blender to reach desired texture. A potato masher may also be used.
Return the pear mixture to the pot, and continue to cook over medium heat until the pears are fairly thick (approximately 20 minutes). Remember, the jam will thicken slightly once you remove it from the heat. There are various ways to test jam, such as a plate method or spoon test. The nice thing about jam is that even if it's thicker or thinner than intended, it still tastes delicious.
Ladle jam into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Cover with sterilized lids and bands. Process in a hot water bath 10 minutes. Cool completely. Check to ensure each jar is sealed. Any jars that aren't sealed should be refrigerated.
Lesson learned while putting my jars in the basement: dropping jars on a concrete floor may pop the seal. I figured that's better than the jar itself cracking and ruining a jar of jam.
Notes: I used several varieties of pears (Bosc, Red Anjou, Green Anjou and Bartlett) for my jam, but one would also work. This recipe should yield approximately 3 half-pints of jam.