We have a pear tree in our garden that has produced one or two fruits each year since we have lived here. The fruit are very small and I have always assumed that it is either a stunted tree or some equivalent of the crabapple. This year though, it is heavily loaded with small fruit.
It was this that drew my mum’s eye and led her to comment that she thought it was a Tettenhall Dick pear tree. I looked at her askance and then realised that she wasn’t joking.
My mum’s gran had this pear tree in her garden in Willenhall which is not that far from Tettenhall so it would make sense for her to have a Tettenhall Dick tree, but I have no idea how this variety of tree has ended up in our garden, but someone must have specifically chosen to plant it here. Great gran used to bottle them and they are reputed to be ideal for bottling and making Perry, so I guess it makes sense to have this in the garden rather than a pear tree that is hard and uneatable one minute and mush the next.
So, the Tettenhall Dick… from a quick google search I have found that it is quite a rare tree, named, after Tettenhall, an area in Wolverhampton and about twenty miles away from here. It was a tree that could be found all over the Black Country but many of the trees have long since been uprooted. You can read all about a chap trying to bring them back from the brink in this article. There are also lots of interesting stories connected to the pear in this blog post and comments by Brownhills Bob.
As my great gran used to bottle them I feel it is my duty to give it a go, in her honour, this year. I want my mum to try them and see if they remind her of the happy childhood she had with her gran.
Most of the pears aren’t ready yet, but some are already starting to fall, so I used the tried and tested technique of giving the pear a little wiggle and if it comes easily off the tree it is ready to be used for bottling. If it stays firm then leave it longer to ripen.
I used my trusted copy of The Sainsbury Book of Preserves & Pickles by Heather Lambert, first published in 1981, as my guide for bottling as it is something I have never ventured before. It has always seemed a bit complicated, but actually now that I have given it a go I think I will be doing it more often.
My sister gifted me a very large Kilner type jar last year so I have used this, but I would advise on using two smaller ones if you can. This one was too big to stand in the simmering oven of the Aga so had to be balanced precariously in a tin and on a pyrex dish so that the syrup wouldn’t leak whilst the seal was taking place. If I had a normal sized oven it probably wouldn’t be an issue. Using smaller jars if you have them will be a better option because fruit in an unopened smaller jar will last for longer than fruit in an opened large jar.
I was surprised at how little sugar you need to bottle pears. I am used to making jam or chutney where you need a fair amount of sugar to either preserve or counteract the vinegar. For this recipe I only needed 125g sugar to every 600ml of water.
Feel free to spice the pears however you like, I added cloves and allspice berries, but use whatever you like or have, suggestions include lemon peel, orange peel, cinnamon, star anise. Experiment to your heart’s content.
Pears – enough to fill the jar that you are using
125g sugar to every 600ml water
You will need a sterile kilner jar (or several depending on how many pears you have to bottle) or similar that has the rubber ring intact. Preheat the oven to 150C, 300F, Gas Mark 2.
Wash the pears and peel. If you are using large pears you can halve them and remove the core. I left mine whole. Place them in acidulated water whilst you prepare them all to stop them browning (acidulated water is water with a squeeze or lemon or teaspoon of vinegar added).
Half fill your jar with water and measure how much water that is. This will give you a guestimate of how much sugar syrup you will use once the pears are in the jar.
Now calculate how much sugar you will need using 125g for every 600ml of water and place the sugar and water in a pan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is fully dissolved. Stop stirring and bring the syrup to a gentle boil.
Fill the jar with pears, pressing them down if you can to make sure the jar is filled as much as it can be. Pour the boiling sugar syrup, slowly and carefully, to completely cover the fruit and fill the jar to the top. Give the jar a gentle bang on a surface covered with a cloth to remove any air bubbles.
Close the jars but don’t completely seal. Place in the oven for an hour. Remove from the oven and seal (using a cloth to protect your hands as it will be very hot). Leave undisturbed for 24 hours. Check fora good seal by loosening the clip and attempting to gently lift the lid. It should be firmly sealed. If the lid opens you can try to seal again by following the instructions above one more time or eat the fruit immediately.
The fruit will stay good in a sealed jar for 3 years.Once you have broken the seal eat within a few days and keep in the fridge.
If you too have Tettenhall Dicks loitering in your garden let me know.