The Greek poet, Homer, called pears, “a gift from the gods,” and it’s not hard to see why—their delicate sweet flavor, sumptuous texture and joyously juicy flesh have won the world over for thousands of years, across thousands of miles.
Though most pears originate from one of two genetic strands—Pyrus communis from Europe and Pyrus pyrifolia from Asia—there are hundreds of pear varieties available in the world today. Lucky for us in the Northwest, we have ideal pear growing conditions and get to taste nature’s bounty of this wonderful fruit from our local orchards throughout the year.
Pears are extremely versatile. They can be eaten raw, baked, poached, sautéed or grilled and used to compliment sweet or savory flavors.
Our culinary experts love to use pears as an ingredient in holiday desserts—such as tarts and crumbles—as a simple, yet sophisticated appetizer or snack with a cheese plate. In particular, our Burnside cheesemonger, Susan Walrabenstein, recommends matching the sweet, spicy notes of pears with creamy blue cheeses, such as local favorite Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese.
Pairing with cheese is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many wonderful ways to incorporate this “gift of the gods” into your fall and holiday menus. For ideas on how to use the many varieties of pears available in the Northwest and how to choose which variety is right for your culinary exploits, we’ve put together a list of our favorite pears.
Bartlett: Bartlett pears grow year-round and are wonderful for canning. Their signature grainy texture and clean, simple sweetness make them great for poaching, baking and sautéing as well.
Anjou: Anjous also grow year-round. As with most pears, they are best when ripened on the counter or in a paper bag after purchase, and have hints of spice in their flavor. This makes them ideal for baking in pies and cobblers, as the nutmeg and cinnamon notes come through in delicious ways.
Bosc: Bosc pears stand up extremely well in baking, poaching and sautéing. They have a firmer texture, which provides crisp, crunchy bites. They’re also very tasty in cobblers and tarts. Their elegant shape and sophisticated flavor makes them a favorite pairing for fine chocolate and caramel.
Seckel: These bite-sized beauties are proof that good things come in small packages. They are great for pickling and spicing, but also pair wonderfully with gourmet cheeses.
Asian Pears: All pears are relatives of apples, but none combine the attributes of both fruits as well as the Asian pear. Asian pears are crunchy like an apple, but have a more velvety texture and the clean finishing flavor of a pear. They are a delightful out-of-hand snack and go nicely with Brie, or Cambert cheeses.
Forelle: Forelle pears develop a gorgeous blush when they ripen. Their outer color makes for stunning decorative arrangements and their inner tastiness is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser alone or with a cheese alongside them.
Comice: Comice pears are widely considered one of the finest varieties of pears due to their smooth texture and ultimate juiciness. They are a decadent luxury when poached and a yummy snack on their own or with cheese.
Taylor’s Gold: A natural mutation of the Comice pear discovered in New Zealand, Taylor’s Gold pears have spicy notes and rich flavor beneath their cinnamon-colored skin. They can be substituted for Comice pears in any recipe.