Bon Rouge Pears

*I will be sharing and demonstrating our recipe for Bon  Rouge Pear Ice Cream on SABC 3’s Expresso Show tomorrow morning (Tues 16 april 2013), at 8.12am*

Yours truly, holding a super-sized Packham’s Triumph from Nowo Organics last Autumn

It’s almost impossible to eat a middling pear. Either they are absolutely perfect – juicy, creamy, crisp – or totally rubbish – hard, mealy, flavourless. One of the reasons for this is that pears are generally harvested in late summer, then cold stored at 0,5C-2C, so they can be sold throughout the year. Pomes (the family of fruit which include apples and pears) are pretty sturdy, and better suited to long term cold storage than most fruits. In fact, waaay before refrigeration was invented, orchard owners would usually store apples in the attic or root cellar, to enjoy over the winter months. Since apples and pears are usually grown in climates with crisp, cold winters, they kept pretty well in this early form of cold storage.

Apples and pears are the only fruits we buy regularly which are kept in cold storage for extended periods of time. Our supplier Lorraine Farm in Elgin has the facilities for this, and know that city folks want to buy apples and pears year round. But it’s not true to say that apples and pears don’t have a season, and like all fruit, they do taste best of all, eaten in-season. Which is why we are loving the Bon Rouge pears we get delivered, straight from the farm, each Wednesday. OK, they look like fruit in a Dutch grand master painting, mottled green and red with that slightly asymmetrical shape similar to bartlett pears (their better known parent), and startlingly white flesh. But the texture and taste: juicy, buttery, soft-but-crisp, perfumed and flavourful. I can’t remember when I last ate a pear that tasted that good. Needless to say, staff have been scoffing them by the kilo (we have an all-you-can-eat fruit and ice cream policy in the kitchen).

Progress, who heads our kitchen team, was sitting in the car with me on the way to set up our stall at Getaway Expo last month. He thoughtfully brought a pear out of his pocket, cut it in two, and handed me me half. So we drove along the highway in companionable silence, noshing our respective pears. When we sorrowfully licked the last drops from our fingers, I said to him, “So how do we make an ice cream that tastes as good as that?”. Last autumn we tried to make pear and apple ice creams, but they were pretty tasteless. But on the trip out the Somerset West, we reverse-engineered the perfect pear, and I will let you in on the secret: the skin. Last year we peeled all the pears before we roasted them, automatically (that’s what you do to a pear, right?). But a lot of what gives a pear its flavour, and what typifies the experience of eating a pear, is biting through the skin. It’s crunchy, a tiny bit bitter – the perfect foil for the creamy flesh. So we went back to the kitchen, cored, chopped but did not peel the Bon Rouge pears, pureed the roasted chunks and their skins, and stirred it into custard. When it came out the churn, eureka: creamy ice cream that tasted just like biting into a perfectly ripe pear.

We’ve sent the first batch to our ice cream club, of course, since we reward their loyalty and adventurous spirits by sending them the good stuff first. But we’ve also started scooping it at market, and not only is it growing its own fanclub, but most of our scoopers are all totally, irrevoccably smitten, too. A highlight of our autumn, without a doubt.

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