I love the concept of slightly ‘savoury’ fruit flavours with salads or as an accompaniment to cheese.
For this recipe you can use any pear variety, but I always prefer the Beurre Bosc for cooking as they never seem to become mealy in texture. They are recognised by more brown than yellow or green skins and long thin necks.
The traditional pears cooked in red wine are always popular and so easy to prepare, but these lightly pickled pears are now a firm favourite in my home. Pears are in season now and make a perfect autumn dish!
The pickle or brine
The pickle has slightly more sugar than the one that I use for cucumbers, onions, peppers or other vegetables.
A basic brine is usually two thirds vinegar to one third water. I usually add about 25ml of sugar per cup of liquid but you can vary this depending on what you are applying it to. Some recipes use up to 30% sugar.
Then the other seasoning includes salt, herbs and spices. For the pears you can use the ‘warm spices’ like cloves and star anise or go the more herbaceous route using fennel or dill seeds and woody herbs like thyme and rosemary! Bay leaves are often used.
I like to use a good quality wine or grape vinegar as I generally find spirit vinegar too sharp. Apple cider vinegar and rice wine vinegar are also good options.
Other seasonings include dried spices such as mustard seeds, juniper berries, all spice berries or pimento berries (which have a flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger), peppercorns or coriander seeds. Cinnamon quills and fresh ginger are lovely. A strip of lemon or orange zest also adds flavour.
Try to use bottled water rather than tap water
as it is pure and will not have the chlorine taint that the urban water supply sometimes as.
The advantage is that you can prepare these up to 2 weeks in advance. It is good to have a supply in the fridge!
I serve the pears as an accompaniment to cheese. It is especially delicious with blue cheese or a mature cheddar, pecorino or any other nutty cheese.
These pears are delicious in a simple salad of lettuce and cheese. Here I love Parmesan, goat milk cheese, a crumbly blue or feta. Nuts such as hazels, pecans or walnuts add crunch.
For the salad dressing simply mix equal quantities of the pickling liquid and a good quality extra virgin olive oil.
Serve the salad as a light meal or a starter.