I should warn that even though vanilla pear jam gives the impression of sugar and spice and everything nice, I’m not going to sugar coat things: making this jam takes time, patience, and some forethought. Heck, it took me two years for the pieces of this recipe to fall into place, which I’ll explain in a bit.
That said, it’s not a difficult recipe and once the jam is on—say—a biscuit, it’s quite a moment. Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t caution: if you lose interest easily or don’t have the heart for jam making you should turn back. No need to sacrifice unsuspecting pears or innocent vanilla beans please, just move on.
And if I can be frank, sometimes I forget that having a killer jam recipe doesn’t solve all your problems, which is too bad because life is making me a little testy at the moment. That said, this jam comes as close to an opioid as any fruit could and even two years later, when I taste it, clouds part.
This all began when I was in Old Montreal, a few years ago. I was staying at a hotel that offered a full spread for breakfast, which included a trio of artisan jams. All three flavors I can’t recall, but the vanilla pear variety stuck with me; so much so that I happily forked over 10 dollars to take a jar home: and so began my obsession.
Now, this was not without overcoming hurdles. I dislike peeling fruits with edible skins. I have an unsubstantiated distrust of supermarket pectin. And I’ve been buying Red Bartlett pears for years because of their rosy come-hither complexion. Turns out, these hang-ups combined make for pretty lousy pear jam. Eventually they provided closure as to why (again, for years) I could never quite get it right.
The stars started to align for me recently when I came across a recipe for homemade pectin from pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick of Sofra. I also was forced to buy Bosc pears at the farmers’ market, which—don’t tell—I usually don’t purchase … because they look ugly. I know. Turns out these ugly pears hold up quite well under heat and make for lovely jam, providing a smooth texture with hints of honey. I know. Serves me right.
And so it goes, you can’t judge a fruit by its skin, nor can you rush making jam. Good jam takes time, and though it can’t directly decrease life’s bitterness, it can certainly sweeten your day a bit, if you are willing to put in the effort.