Sunny Slope Orchard

Sunny Slope Orchard
In the coast range foothills overlooking the Sacramento Valley

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mid-Winter Rain Celebration

We are in a cheerful mood after a generous storm last weekend dropped nearly six inches of rain on our orchard and garden. The effects of this water were immediately obvious: green moss magically appeared on rocks, the cover crop perked up, and the soil feels soft underfoot like a carpet.

To celebrate, we reached into the pantry for a jar of the pears that we canned last summer and proceeded to make Pear Gingerbread, one of our favorite winter desserts. Perhaps you will be tempted to try it in your kitchen too.

This recipe is adapted from Joy of Cooking; the original source recipe is on page 681 in our edition of this classic cookbook.  
Pear Gingerbread
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 12” baking pan with butter. Take a quart jar of pears and drain off all the liquid, reserving it for use later. Place the pear halves, cut side down, in the greased pan.
Melt 1/2 cup butter in a heavy pan and let cool. In a large bowl, combine ½ cup sugar and 1 egg with the melted butter and beat well.
In a medium bowl, sift (or whisk) together 2 ½ cups flour, 1 ½ tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. each ginger and cinnamon, and ½ tsp. salt. Note: the original recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but we usually use whole wheat flour for at least ½ of the total amount of flour.

Heat one cup of the reserved liquid from the jar of pears until quite hot but not boiling. In a medium bowl or a very large capacity measuring cup, combine ½ cup honey, ½ cup molasses, the 1 cup of hot liquid, and 1 Tbsp. orange zest.
Add the flour mixture and the liquid ingredients alternately into the butter mixture, stirring until blended. Pour the batter over the pears in the pan to cover them completely, being careful not to let the pears slide around. Bake about 1 hour, then serve warm or cold. A topping of Santa Rosa plum compote goes well. And of course a generous blob of whipped cream doesn't hurt either!

Work on the farm continues year-round, but the pace definitely is more relaxed in the winter. The trees are all pruned now, looking tidy with well-spaced branches reaching upwards, waiting for the longer warmer days of Spring. With pantry shelves and freezers full of good food, we look around us and feel quite content and peaceful.
But, wait! It looks as if the apricot buds are starting to swell again….

Apricot fruit spurs, buds swelling