October 17th, 2014 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Apples or Pears?
I love apples and pears. Of all the amazing varieties of available fruit there are to enjoy, these two stand out as my favorites. Even during the summer months when the luscious soft fruits emerge, I still like a pretty heavy dose of apples and pears. It’s a tough call as to which is my favorite, but if I was forced to choose between them, I believe I would give a slight nod to pears. Knowing whether you’re an apple person or a pear person may actually reveal a little bit about who you are. In the same way that the question “Who was your favorite Beatle after the group split up”, is in some circles considered a pop culture litmus Test; you can certainly get a slight glimpse into someone’s being simply by knowing whether they prefer apples or pears.
I appreciate that as a shopper you are part of the process in the evolving flavor of a pear. A little human intervention is required to find the perfect fruit. Apples are certainly easier to understand. We typically are not concerned about any level of ripeness, only how crisp they are and whether they are sweet or tart. Pears on the other hand do ripen, and as a result they tend to present a bit more of a complicated scenario to the shopper or retailer. It can sometimes be very challenging finding a pear that is immediately ready to eat – one that is not too firm, but also not too mealy. The key to loving and enjoying pears is to find them at the pinnacle of their ripening process. In order to do this, you must understand how they actually ripen. Because pears do come of age, there is the challenge of knowing exactly the point at which they are peaking in flavor. Eat one before it is ripe and they are crunchy, but with very little flavor. Eat one past its peak, and the mushy texture is difficult to overcome. Timing is everything.
In order to have a successful pear experience it is critical that we are dialed in to when that “perfect moment” in the life of a pear has arrived. The key is to understand that as pears ripen this process is happening from the inside out. This is the secret to selecting a great pear and could not be overstated! What this means is that the fruit will always be riper on the inside than it appears on the outside. Most people select their pears when they appear perfectly ripe based on exterior hints such as color change, softness and smell. While these hints may initially appear very helpful when you’re shopping (or retailing), they can in fact be a bit misleading. By the time these symptoms of ripeness have made their way to the external appearance of the fruit, the interior of the pear is already further along in the ripening process.
So, what can easily happen is that when a pear seems perfectly ripe on the outside, the inside is already past its peak and will often have a mushy texture with a slightly fermented flavor. When a pear is perfectly ready to eat all the symptoms of readiness are going on inside the fruit, and what we typically look for as indicators of ripeness on the exterior may not be apparent. The best way to judge the ripeness of a pear is to look at the stem end of the fruit. When this end yields slightly to gentle pressure, the pear is ripe and ready to eat. At this point it may not seem ripe. You may actually think that it needs another day or two, but trusting in this method should yield some very tasty results. Even though the exterior of the fruit appears to be saying “wait a few more days”, the inside of the fruit is screaming “I’m ready now!” It’s as though there is an exquisite timing that nature has embedded into this delicious fruit. And, once that perfectly ripe pear makes its way into your mouth, the taste is a often a complex mix of varying flavors, much like you enjoy with a nice wine. Take your time between bites and you will notice the very subtle and different flavors as they gradually emerge. The pear is a wonderfully sophisticated fruit. It takes a little bit of finessing and craftsmanship to develop the art of selecting one when it’s peaking in flavor, but that’s all just part of the pear experience.
Enjoy some pears this winter… and by the way, my favorite Beatle, particularly once they all went solo, was George.