As kids we had almost unlimited access to pears. My grandparents had numerous pear trees around their house as well as in their orchard on their Otatara property.
There were several varieties which our grandmother knew by name and, more importantly, by their best use.
Today, they would be respected as heritage varieties as the trees (if still alive) would be about 100 years old.
Only a small amount of the pear crop was left to ripen on the tree. The rest was picked green and left stored in a cool, dry shed for later use. Pears are interesting as a fruit by the way they ripen from the inside. It can be difficult to check the ripeness of pears from the main body mass, leaving the neck as the best place to check.
Like apples, pears are a popular snack fruit available all year round, with different varieties ripening at different stages of the year. There is also plenty of choice. Pears, again like apples, are also available dried or as juice. They are used in jams and jellies, often combined with other fruits and berries, not to mention great when the juice is fermented (known as perry) and canned or bottled.
Grandma bottled pears with a shelf in the wash-house dedicated to the many bottles preserved in the old "copper" for later use.
Pear crumble was often served as a dessert with cream straight from the milking shed and as a real treat on a Sunday afternoon Grandma would make a pear krummel torte, which was a real favourite of mine.
It was not made often, which made it even more enjoyable, and again was served alongside a jug of runny cream straight from the milking shed and her homemade icecream.
Of German origin, it is an interesting type of cake; the same pastry used for the base is then crumbled on the top and baked similar to a crumble. I hope you will try this and enjoy it as much as I did as a kid. I understand this dish was normally made with apples but my grandmother preferred pears and we certainly got to enjoy it. I have converted this from imperial to metric and it still works well.
GRANDMA HAWKES' PEAR KRUMMEL TORTE
For the pastry
2 free-range eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
jar or tin of pears
tsp ground cloves
grated rind of a lemon
Method: Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, then add the vanilla essence.
Mix in the flour and work on a board until the mixture forms a good paste.
Roll out on a well-floured board and press into a 23cm cake tin, ensuring the sides are covered about 4cm up. Place in the fridge and allow to set for 30 minutes, leaving the rest of the pastry on the board.
Drain a jar or tin of pears and slice lengthwise.
Cover the base of the pastry with the pears then sprinkle with ground cloves and rind.
Crumble the remaining pastry over top of the pear mixture and place in an oven heated to 200 degrees Celsius and bake for 30-35 minutes.
Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar alongside cream and icecream.
Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout.
- The Southland Times