At the market this afternoon, while surveying rows of crates of apples and pears, all at their prime, it occurred to me that applesauce could be as easily made from pears as from apples, and thus have the flavor of pears, instead of apples. Every year I simmer large pots of chunky applesauce, skins left on, sometimes helped along with a splash of apple cider, often sweetened with honey or maple syrup but at times not, always with a stick of cinnamon but once in awhile with a vanilla bean.
The beauty of homemade applesauce, besides its sometimes staggering deliciousness, is that it uses up large quantities of apples with minimal effort; they need only be cored and hacked into rough chunks, then cooked down in a pot. Leaving the skins on not only saves time and effort but allows you to retain nutrient value – a large percentage of the nutrients and fiber in an apple are in and just underneath the skin. And you eat the skin when you eat an apple anyway, right? More fragile and thinner-skinned than apples, pears are even easier to work with.
A ripe pear can hardly be picked up without bruising or slicing through the flesh with a fingernail; they’re ideal for simmering – alone or along with apples – into a thick sauce that freezes easily and is perfect for baking, stirring into oatmeal, or serving alongside roast chicken, turkey, pork or ham. To get a head start on your holiday feasts, add a handful of cranberries. To add a savoury note, tuck in a sprig of rosemary or thyme. There’s no real formula you need to follow – simply simmer your choice of pears over low heat, adding honey, maple syrup or brown sugar according to the sweetness of the pears and your taste, until you’re able to mash them with a potato masher or whiz them until smooth in your food processor or using a hand-held immersion blender right in the pot.