My friend Rita sent me a wonderful looking recipe that she claims to make every year with great success. At the same time, a neighbor of mine gave me a box of organic pearss she picked up at the farmers market-gratis. Seems at the end of the day they want to get rid of some things and she has been going there for, um, forever. So, pears and a pear raisin mince pie recipe, whatever it means by mince. But I was excited to try it.
And so it began.
2 1/2 lbs. of firm pears. First, I bit into one of the pears. Wha? I tried another. I knew they were misshapen. I knew they were a little green. But these had no flavor. It was like biting into crispy water. I would either have to go to the store and replace some pears or use some of the apples we had just bought bags of. So I used 3 pears, peeled and diced, then added 2 honeycrisp apples and 1 granny smith, all peeled and diced too.
6 Tbsp orange marmalade. Dang, I forgot to put that on my grocery list. When I was at my mom’s house the night before I was to bake the pies, she whipped out this bag of tiny jams and jellies a friend had given her. They were little hotel size jars with about 1 Tbsp of jam in them. She dug and dug and found 1 jar or orange marmalade! I was impressed. No, it wasn’t enough, but the fact that she had any was kind of surprising. So I took my little eeny-weeny pot of marmalade home with me. I was against going back to any store at this point and was just going to use what I had. Back at home I took out my homemade peach jam, about 5 Tbsp, added the orange marmalade, and mixed it in. Then I took an orange, took about half of it and chopped the dickens out of it in a bowl with my food chopper. Then grated some orange zest into it, picked out the big fiber chunks and added it to the “marmalade”. I put this in a saucepan and simmered it down a few minutes., then tasted. Ohhh, wonderful. I had to taste some more. And some more.
1/4 cup packed raisins What if I don’t like raisins in a pie? I don’t wanna! But I do love Craisins. How about substituting? Oh wait. Didn’t I just buy some fresh cranberries. What would happen if I used those? Lets find out.
2 Tbsp sugar Now that I was using all those apples and tart cranberries, I decided to up the sugar just a bit. I put in about 1/4 cup of brown sugar and oh, about 1/3 cup of white. (I just scooped, didn’t really measure).
2 Tbsp. Brandy My dear hubby, when I asked if we had brandy, said “sure, yeah.” …Can you guess what happened then? When I actually went to look for the brandy, he changed his tune to “Well, if we don’t have brandy, we have lots of port, which is almost the same thing.” Sure enough, there were several lovely bottles of unopened port which I was not about to open for 2 Tbsp. So I went to my fallback liquor of choice, Tuaca. It’s an Italian liquor that is my secret ingredient in the apple crisps I make. (sure, don’t tell anyone). So I poured in a couple Tbsp. of that instead, so worries. At least I knew that was a tried and true liquor.
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. No problem
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. cloves or how about a heaping tsp. of pumpkin pie spice? I have 2 bottles, one from our Holiday Boutique at church and one from TJ.s. Both are wonderful blends of cinnamon, nutmeg and other aromatic spices. I put them in just about everything that calls for cinnamon these days, even french toast.
1 Tbsp. cornstarch Luckily I had just bought some. If not though, I could have used tapioca flour, which I also had on hand.
So I tossed the fruit mixture with the cornstarch. In a medium bowl I mixed all the other ingredients and added it to the apples. I had already made the pie crust and had the pie pan lined with it. I gently poured it all in and smoothed it out with my spoon. Then I carefully took the top crust, on which I had used a pie crust press thingy that cut out leaf shapes from the dough for me, and carefully lay that down on the pie. The original recipe called for a lattice top, but I wanted to use my press. It looked lovely. I took the leaf cut-outs and , wetting them with egg whites, lay them around the pie. I brushed the top with egg whites and raw sugar and popped into a 400 degree oven until done. It took a little over an hour and I did have to put a pie crust shield on it when it started browning too much.
I would say the only problem I had with it, in the end, was it was a bit too juicy. I should have used more cornstarch. Perhaps I used more fruit than called for or it was the combination of fresh cranberries and all those apples. But the flavor! How wonderful. And I had a chance to use some of that peach jam. Just earlier this week I used some to make a barbecue sauce that was out of this world. Only 4 ingredients too. But is it cheating if you started with a bottle of barbecue sauce? Then add scoops of peach jam, some garlic mustard and a dribble of wine vinegar. Oh, where was I? Pie.
So I ended up with a completely different pie than I started out with. I had every intention of making the pear-raisin mince pie, really I did. Now I ended up with…what? Apple, pear, cranberry pie? Apple-pear mince pie? Holiday mish-mash pie? Whatever you call it, I am having some for breakfast in a minute. Yum.