Jennifer from our Kitchen Council is sharing how caramelization makes pears so delicious during this time of year and tips to get perfect ones every time.
Caramelization is a wonderful cooking technique to master. It adds an incredible richness and depth of flavor to so many sweet and savory recipes. There’s nothing quite like caramelized fruit. In addition to enhancing flavors, caramelization adds to the presentation of a dish with deepened colors. Caramelized Stemilt pears are a treat by themselves, but they also work well in a variety of dishes. They can be served alongside vanilla ice cream, on crostini, or as a topping over pork chops, to give you a few ideas. But let’s start by examining the basics.
What is Caramelization?
Caramelization is the oxidation of sugar that creates a browning reaction and a delicious, nutty flavor. When high temperatures are applied to certain foods, including fruits and vegetables, the natural sugars will brown and become sweeter, more bitter, and overall more intense. There’s a fine line between caramelized and burnt, so it’s important to stay mindful while caramelizing any ingredients, especially delicate fruits such as pears.
Which Stemilt Pears to Caramelize?
Good news! All of the Stemilt pear varieties will caramelize beautifully. The thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want the pears to be overripe when you try to caramelize them, or they might not hold their shape. They’ll still be delicious, but you’ll potentially have a caramelized pear topping instead of clean slices. Aim for firm pears with a slight give.
Breaking Down The Pears:
There are three ways to cut pears before caramelizing them. They can be halved, sliced, or cubed.
Before deciding how you want to prepare them, consider the differences. Halved pears are the most beautiful to look at, but the least amount of surface area will be caramelized, and the shape might not go well with everything, presentation-wise. For example, halved pears are a perfect option for dessert, but probably not the best option for serving alongside meat. Cubed and sliced pears are a good topping for meat, because they will present well, and they will be complementary in portion. Sliced pears are an excellent salad topper and would also work on crostini for a quick appetizer.
Methods for Caramelizing Pears:
- Hot Pan. This is an easy method for caramelizing pears using any of the above cuts. Use a nonstick skillet over medium heat with approximately 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Add the pears cut side down when the butter is sizzling. Allow them to cook until they are nicely browned, swirling the pan occasionally to avoid sticking, approximately 5 minutes. Flip sliced pears at the halfway point.
- Broiler. The broiler is an excellent way to caramelize halved pears. Preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the pears onto the prepared sheet skin side up and brush with melted butter. Optionally, you can sprinkle some white or brown sugar on top to enhance the caramelization. Broil, keeping a very close watch, until the tops are nicely caramelized.
- Torch. A kitchen torch is a good, fast option for halved or sliced pears that have been sprinkled with either white or brown sugar. Simply brulee the tops and serve!
- Sugar. As noted, sugar is an excellent option for enhancing caramelization.
- Spices. You can always add in some spices to the sugar (or the butter, if no sugar is being used). Ground cinnamon is often a tasty addition.
- Salt. If you like a balance of sweet and savory, try adding a pinch of salt to the butter or sugar while caramelizing.