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November 2011
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Pears, guilt, and cooking during shipping week

There were pears on my front porch; the last fruits from our tree which we’d not given away. They sat there in a row where we’d placed them to ripen. They’d ripened fine, but they continued to sit while we all walked past them off to school, back from school, running errands, shipping packages, fetching mail, or hauling garbage. The pears witnessed it all and they gradually shifted toward the place beyond ripe. My occasional pauses to glance guiltily at the pears changed from “I really ought to can those” into “I really ought to throw those away.” One morning we finally did. Howard and I dumped all the porch pears unceremoniously into the garbage can. I breathed relief. Pears were no longer a little nagging item on my list of things to do.

The back lawn was blanketed with a layer of leaves. This is the natural result of having planted trees a decade ago. If the leaves were left all winter the grass would die. I sent kids out to rake one afternoon and they made leaf houses, outlining imaginary walls with long sinuous piles of leaves. On a different day I sent them out to rake again and told them they were required to fill up six garbage bags with leaves. They did as they were told and the lawn was still dotted with large grass-killing leaf piles. Howard surveyed the leaves and declared a family leaf raking hour. We armed ourselves with gloves, rakes, and a box full of garbage bags. In the course of one hour, our two teams of baggers and one team of rakers relocated all the leaves into bags. From there the leaves could be transported to the green waste station or offered to neighbors for mulch.

Our pear tree had a surprise for us. Protected under the layer of fallen leaves were several dozen pears. Many of them were the sort of rotten fruit one expects to find a month past the end of bearing season, but some of them were perfect. Ripe. Crisp. Ready to eat or cook. We took a break from raking and gathered up the still-good pears. We had almost two grocery sacks full. I looked at them on my kitchen counter. Pears were back on my list. I really did not want to spend another month feeling guilty about wasting pears. I also did not feel excited about canning pears. This was when I remembered apple butter.

Apple butter is a spread, like peanut butter, only it is made of apples, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. It is like distilled apple pie that you can spread on toast. I’d had some years ago and the memory stuck with me. Another thing which stuck in my memory is that pears can be substituted for apples in almost any recipe. I googled and had a recipe in minutes. I don’t know why smashing pears into a pulp through a strainer is more fun to me than peeling them and putting them into jars, but it is. The pulp cooked for over an hour, spreading the smell of apple pie through the house. Two batches resulted in 9 pints of pear butter. More importantly, it turned guilty pears into delicious spread.

Making pear butter is not what I ought to have done today. I’m not sorry for it though. Tomorrow I will find high gear and do all the shipping preparation things which need to be done. The calendars arrived and all the pieces are in hand. Now we just need to do the work.

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