Cider: the answer to a pending pear glut

My best pear tree produces a prodigious amount of fruit, but every year there are only a few days separating perfect pears from ones that are completely rotten from the inside outwards. I have never discovered what it is that causes this sudden transformation, but I didn’t want to take the risk that they would all be wasted by the time I returned from a fortnight’s holiday. I needed to make something that used many kilos of pears but wouldn’t require freezer space.Image

This is my first attempt at “Perry” or Pear Cider, so it’s possible that my next blog may be about what to do with 15 litres of cider vinegar, and the perils of stray yeasts!

I downloaded the recipe from which told me I would “need the usual homebrew equipment such as a fermenter (the plastic barrel we make beer and wine in), airlock, syphon etc. and a good cider yeast.”

This last ingredient was a bit of a problem as our homebrew box only contained some out of date larger yeast and a couple of packets of champagne yeast. My husband, aka “the vintner”, was certain champagne yeast would be fine, but we rang the excellent homebrew shop in Santa Maria on the off chance they stocked cider yeast. They didn’t, but, with a bit of prompting, they confirmed that wine yeast should work. The other ingredients of campden tablets, yeast nutrient and pectolase we already had from making pomegranate and grape wines.

After an hour or so of pear washing, quartering, and putting them through the kitchen juicer, we measured the start gravity with the hydrometer and discovered it was perfect. This was lucky as I’d forgotten to buy sugar and the shops were no longer open.

We put in the crushed campden tablets and left it overnight before adding the yeast solution, nutrient and pectolase this afternoon. It’s now “glurping” away in the downstairs bathroom and in a few weeks we should be able to rack it off and bottle it … that’s the theory anyway, although we have had a few spectacular homebrew failures in the past.

If the remaining pears are still healthy when we return they can be peeled, chopped and frozen for use in cakes and crumbles, or made into pear mincemeat and bottled. This is a real treat, full of flavour but without the heaviness of traditional mincemeat. See the recipe on it works brilliantly … and I’ve just noticed it contains 225ml of cider vinegar!

The recipe we used for the Pear Cider was:

“20kg of pears (juiced or crushed and pressed to produce about 10 litres of juice.

Adjust with water to get a start gravity of 1045 – 1060 (check with your hydrometer)

Add 3 crushed campden tablets.

5-10 grams of diammonium phosphate (yeast nutrient)

Pectalase (a sachet is usually for 25 litres so adjust accordingly)

Cider yeast (a sachet is usually for 25 litres so adjust accordingly)

“Leave to ferment for a few weeks. Final gravity is often a bit higher than for apple cider due to unfermentable sugars present in pears so expect something like 1010. Rack off and discard most bottom sediment, bottle with priming sugar (a heaped teaspoon per 500ml bottle). Leave bottles for 3 days, then transfer to a cool place for clearing.”

Sunday afternoon with the wine filter

This Sunday we finally found time to bottle last autumn’s pomegranate wine, which has developed into a “fortified” variety. Perhaps we should have lightened up on the raisins in the recipe as although all the sugar has converted into alcohol, so it’s beautifully dry, there’s no doubt it packs more of a punch than this year’s grape tipple. However, the thirty bottles will keep us going for a while and there’s something deeply satisfying about seeing the wine rack fill up while knowing that this batch has started off drinkable and we’re not just praying that it will miraculously change before we pull out the cork.

We planted the pomegranate tree about eight years ago and it gives more fruit than we really need so we are no longer having to steal from the neighbour’s laden boughs which hang close to our wall. To be honest the neighbour’s garden is a source of deep frustration: it’s a total mess, nothing is ever done to it, yet the trees hang heavy with fruit year after year surrounded by waist-deep weeds while said neighbour persists in shouting at me for putting down slug pellets which, he claims, deprives him of nourishing meals of “caracol”. His patch serves to remind me that there’s definitely something to be said for allowing nature to take its course and not “over-caring” for trees.

In fact, if it wasn’t for “over-caring” for trees we wouldn’t have the pomegranate at all. When we first lurched onto the property ladder we could either afford somewhere habitable or somewhere derelict but with land. Although we couldn’t see how much land we were buying, as the eight terraces had been untouched for 15 years and the final four had no steps between them, the plans told of 1000m2. We eventually unearthed numerous vines and a host of orange trees. When my mother visited from England she was adamant all the plants would need oceans of water on a daily basis to cope with the Mediterranean sun. This killed off all but two of the trees which enabled me to start planting different fruit trees in their place. My general rule of thumb is, if I don’t eat it I won’t plant it, but in the case of the pomegranate it was bought almost exclusively for the beauty of its bright orange flowers and only later did I wonder what to do with bucketfuls of fruit that require incredible patience to eat. Wine making has solved the problem, the kids can still pick as many as they like to eat while the residue are not wasted.

There are many recipes for pomegranate wine and we have endured some spectacular failures – especially with those that use barley and which all the experts say are wonderful. When the fruit is ready for picking I will post the recipe we find works best, but in the meantime there’s masses of other things to do in the garden to ensure you can always make a meal from it throughout the year.