Normally, I am a fan of the hot-pack approach to canning fruit, as it helps you fit more fruit into each jar. A recipe in last month’s New York Times, however, convinced me that it’s silly to poach pears separately, since a water-bath canning process will effectively poach the pears for you. I found their recipe, with its thyme, vinegar, and peppercorns, a bit fussy and decided to take a more straightforward approach: simple syrup + star anise. Since I still had some Seckel pears left over from my last trip to Mood’s, I left them whole. It really is the kind of thing that invites endless variation: if you like peppercorns and thyme with your pears, then by all means, you should try it. I suspect ginger would be particularly nice.
Canned Pears with Star Anise
5 pounds pears
4 cups syrup, at your preferred level of sweetness (I like 1:2 sugar: water)
Juice of one lemon
4 star anise
1) Start a boiling water bath large enough to cover 2 quart jars or 4 pint jars. Dissolve the sugar in water and bring the syrup to a boil. Add the lemon juice. While you’re waiting, peel your pears. If they’re small, leave them whole; if they’re large, cut them in half and remove the core. Cut out any bad spots. Don’t forget to warm up your lids.
2) Fit as many pears as possible into each jar, along with 1 star anise per pint jar or 2 per quart jar. Of course, you may need more jars. Cover the pears with syrup, run a knife or spatula along the inside of the jar to remove any air bubbles, and add more syrup if necessary.
3) Process quarts for 25 minutes or pints for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. Remember to remove the bands and wipe down the jars, as they may be sticky.