I don’t know if there’s such a thing as Pie Season, but this is certainly the time of year when I just want to make pies and pies and pies. So I guess it’s Pie Season for me, anyway. All those nice orchard fruits are begging to get baked with some cinnamon & sugar and make the kitchen smell amazing!
I’ve made two pear pies already this weekend – one got eaten up last night & the other is at my aunt & uncle’s house preparing to get eaten up. Pear pie is not a whole lot different from apple pie – but I think it’s better. After getting about 100 pounds of free pears from my cousin’s tree (thanks, Aaron!) earlier this month, I have tried a lot of apple recipes using pears instead, and I have decided that pears are totally superior. Dehydrated pears are sweet in a way that dried apples can’t match, making them a better sweet-tooth satisfier. Pear sauce is something truly wonderful – with no sugar added and flavored with just a little vanilla, it blows apple sauce away. And there’s this pear pie, which I am deeply in love with.
Start by making the filling. This recipe is modified from the Ball Blue Book recipe for apple pie, which is a great standard & freezes nicely. Their recipe makes about 3 pies, but I am going to give you proportions for just one pear pie. If you want to make more and freeze some for later, do it! Freeze portions in quart containers & you will be able to use them to fill one deep-dish pie crust each.
Pear Pie Filling
2 pounds pears (or a little more)
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Wash, peel, core and slice pears. I cut each pear into 8 or 12 slices, depending on whether it’s small or big. If you toss them with some Fruit Fresh while you work, they won’t darken – but rinse this off & drain the the pears before moving on.
Put the pears in a pan with a good heavy bottom and sprinkle the sugar, flour & cinnamon over them. Stir until pears are coated and let sit until they get juicy, about 30 minutes. Add the lemon juice and start to cook over a medium-low fire, stirring frequently. When the sauce starts to thicken, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
While the pie filling is cooking, you can be working on the crust and topping. If you have never made pie crust before, do yourself a favor and try this one! It is not hard, and it tastes SO much better than store-bought crust. You don’t have to roll it out, so it’s less messy & takes less time to throw together. I love it!
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (you can use white flour, but this tastes great and is better for you!)
2 heaping teaspoons sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup melted butter (you can use all oil instead of half oil & half butter, if you prefer – that’s what the original recipe I got called for – but I am a big fan of this buttery version.)
In a deep-dish pie plate, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Add milk, oil and butter. Mix with a fork until completely combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides.
Now, that crust recipe doesn’t make a top crust, but that is not a problem because we can use a streusel topping. I pretty much don’t make any pie that I can’t put a streusel topping on, because it is the best!
1/4 cup butter (half of a stick)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (again, you can use white, but this is so good with wheat flour!)
Put all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until the butter is incorporated into the dry ingredients & the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
OK, now you’ve got the three components for your pie. Put the filling in the crust and sprinkle the streusel topping all over the top. Then bake at 350 for 35-50 minutes – take it out when the streusel topping & edges of the crust are starting to brown. Cool and enjoy!
A note about flour, since I am clearly a whole wheat flour devotee – I’ve always made these recipes with a mixture of unbleached all-purpose flour & whole wheat flour, both from the grocery store. I recently started using a locally-grown whole-wheat flour, not mixing with any white flour. It is so much better! I don’t know if it’s the high quality of the local wheat, the fact that it’s almost surely fresher and more recently ground than the stuff you get at the store, or what, but this stuff makes spectacular pie crust and streusel topping. Here in the Quad City area, one place to get local flour is Smith Farms. That’s where I got mine. Good stuff!
Of course, fresh local pears also make this pie even more wonderful. My pears were Bartletts and Comices or maybe Anjous – I think! That’s sure what they looked like, but my grandmother, who planted the trees, is no longer around to tell us for sure. Comices & Anjous are a little firmer & hold up to baking similar to an apple, so they’re great for pie. But the Bartletts were a big part of what made that pear sauce so divine!