Friday, November 5, 2010

National Family Stories Month - Perfect Pear Picking

November Is National Family Stories Month – What’s YOUR Story?

One of my fondest memories is about a beautiful Fall day at my grandparents’ farm in mid-November. The day was sunny, cool and crisp, with a definite nip in the air. Years previously, they had started an apple and pear tree orchard that was especially abundant that year.

My family made an annual trek out to the farm to help harvest the fruit, often with my cousins coming along. But whenever possible, I cherished the opportunity to spend time by myself out at the farm with Grandma and Grampa.

I grew up loving both apples and pears, but the grocery stores never seemed to carry my favorite pears, the kind that Grampa grew. They are best picked after a hard freeze, so that is how I remember the time of year. The fruit is green, a little lumpy and almost as hard as a rock – literally! Some of them are so huge that a little girl can barely wrap her hands around the circumference.

Naturally, as we picked the green pears, I HAD to try one (or two, or maybe even three), which almost certainly resulted in a tummy ache later that night. I worked diligently to gnaw off the peel until I got a small bite started, then savored the crunchy, gritty flesh inside. The texture always reminded me of fresh coconut right from its just-cracked hard shell.

As the pears ripened at home, their green color transformed to a lovely shade of yellow. At the same time, they gave off an intoxicating aroma that called to me by name, “Elizabeth, e-LIZ-abeth…” until I finally had to chomp down another one.

Regrettably, this variety of pears doesn’t keep well for very long. Once they turned yellow, they quickly over-ripened. It wasn’t long before we had to peel and cook up the rest of them for longer keeping. At that point, the pears were still okay to eat, but they no longer had that marvelous crunch and texture that I loved.

Ten years ago, I discovered that my husband’s aunt and uncle had a pear tree that was the same variety as Grampa’s. I begged and badgered them long enough that now every year they bring us a “care package” of pears that allow me to reminisce about my grandparents and their perfect pear trees. Oh, by the way, I still have to grab one right away and eat it while it is wonderfully hard and crunchy. Thank Goodness, I’ll never learn any better!

About thirty years ago, my parents, son Jason and I got carried away and picked seven full bushels of apples! Just so you can appreciate our culinary creativity, here is an excerpt from my book, Granny’s Guide to Fun & Fabulous Family Stories, that follows up on that apple-picking adventure:

With all that food stockpiled, we stuffed ourselves (as well as family, friends and neighbors) with all manner of scrumptious apple delicacies.

The delicious aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg filled our house almost every day, making our mouths water in anticipation. We had apple pie, apple crisp, apple cake, apple coffeecake and apple pudding. And still we had more apples.

We enjoyed fried apples, caramel apples, taffy apples, apple butter, apple salads, apple muffins and apple dumplings until the house seemed to have a perpetual aroma of cinnamon. And still we had more apples.

Jason took brightly polished red and yellow apples to school for his birthday treat and for his teacher, too. For Christmas, we even hung shiny red apples by ribbons onto our tree. And still we had more apples.

We had enough apples to last us all through that Fall and Winter and into Spring. By the time we had finally finished eating all those apples, I realized two things: 1) an apple a day really DOES keep the doctor away because we didn’t get sick all winter long and 2) I never EVER got tired of apples!

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Gretchen said...

I would never get tired of apples, either! And those pears sound JUST delightful. :) I've never eaten a crunchy one before!

Janna said...

I am seriously going to go eat a pear after all this mouthwatering pear talk!

I do love the grainy crunchiness of a pear too and what great memories outdoors getting your food instead of always at a store.

Karen said...

National Family Story Month! That's terrific. I always enjoy hearing other people's stories. They always reveal something special that you didn't know about the teller.

I really enjoyed your apple stories, and I'm glad no one got sick that year!

Beth (Elizabeth) LaMie said...

Thanks, Karen. I love it when something like National Family Stories Month hits an area I feel passionate about, like this one.

As for the apples, now when I look at just how big a bushel of apples is, I am amazed to think we actually used up almost all of those apples.

But you are right - perhaps the biggest benefit was being in good health all winter.

Beth (Elizabeth) LaMie said...

As I was writing that post, I kept wishing that I had some of those pears here at home. We've just been getting our first hard frosts up here, so I expect my special little care package will be arriving soon. Mmm-good!

Beth (Elizabeth) LaMie said...

I need to find out again what variety of pears those are. Even if they aren't available in grocery stores, maybe a farmers market will have some. They are really yummy.