Spiced Pickled Pears
Pears in a mild spicy pickle make a wonderfully new and different accompaniment to Christmas cold cuts or, if you warm them through slightly, they are magic with either a roast duck or a goose.
They look very pretty and appealing, too, as they turn a lovely amber colour and make an excellent home-made Christmas gift. If you want to make more, simply double or treble the recipe and so on, remembering that 2 lb (1 kg) pears fills a 1 litre jar.
This recipe is from Delia's Happy Christmas. Makes a 1 litre jar
Start off by putting all the ingredients except the pears in a large saucepan and place it on a low heat, allowing it to come slowly to the boil.
Give everything a whisk round from time to time to dissolve the sugar crystals. While that's happening, peel the pears. They need to be pared very thinly (forgive the pun). This means using either a very sharp knife or, best of all, a really good potato peeler. Take off all the peel but leave the stalks and the base florets intact. As you peel each pear, plunge it into a bowl of cold water.
Then, after peeling them, check that the sugar has completely dissolved into the vinegar, drain the pears and add them to the saucepan. Bring everything up to a gentle simmer and let the pears cook for about 20 minutes or until they look slightly transparent and feel tender when tested with a small skewer.
In the meantime, the jar should be washed thoroughly in warm, soapy water, rinsed, dried and heated in a moderate oven for 5 minutes. Then, using a draining spoon, transfer the pears and slices of lemon to the clean jar. Now boil the syrup furiously for about 5 minutes until it's reduced to about 15 fl oz (425 ml) and pour in enough to fill the jar right up to its neck and completely cover the pears. Then scoop out the spices and add them to the jar as well. Any leftover syrup can be discarded. Cover and seal the jar and, when the contents are completely cold, wipe and label it and store it in a cool dark place for about 1 month before using.
The pears will keep well for 6 months.