November 8, 2006
I oven-dry tomatoes all through late summer, when I can lay my hands on cheap and tasty specimens, and I like to apply that method to pears in the fall, too: the drying sublimates the pear flavor into a hauntingly sweet concentrate of itself. This does mean it is a good way to cut your losses on below-average pears, but for superb results you should of course use superb pears. The technique works best with fruits that are ripe but firm and not too juicy, so they will retain their shape and not drip all over the floor of your oven.
Not only are dried pears easy to make and delicious, but the resulting strips are also surprisingly versatile: they can be eaten as a simple snack (their texture, crisp at first but gradually turning chewy in your mouth, makes them quite satisfying), they can be served with cheese (especially washed rind and blue cheeses) or game birds, they can be added to scones, oatmeal cookies, and granolas, and they enter the preparation of berawecka, a dried fruit loaf that is traditionally made for Christmas in Alsace. And in my opinion, they make very pretty edible gifts, too.
My latest batch was made with Louise-Bonne pears, a variety I'd never seen or heard of before: these pears were tiny, their skin green and lightly freckled with yellow, their off-white flesh fragrant and acidulated, and they played along remarkably well in the drying game. (Check back on Friday to see what I did with them.)
2 large or 4 small pears, ripe but firm
Preheat the oven to 80°C (175°F) and grease an oven rack with vegetable oil.
Rinse and dry the pears. Core them while still whole using an apple corer or an old-fashioned vegetable peeler. Cut the pears in thin slices all along their length with a sharp serrated knife, so that each slice is round with a hole in the middle like a big flat polo mint.
Arrange the slices on the prepared rack in a single layer (it's okay if the slices touch, but they shouldn't overlap) and bake for 4 to 4 1/2 hours, flipping the slices halfway through, until light brown and completely dry. Let cool completely and keep in a tin box at room temperature.
Aged Gouda and Dried Pear Scones
Roasted Apples and Pears with Caramels
Pear Pastilla on NPR and a Mention in ELLE