Molly Fisk: Naked Lady Pearsauce

Fifteen years ago, as I was making the house I live in habitable — when I bought it there was ivy growing out of the bathtub spigot — I cannily put in a window wherever I might have reason to stand up and do any work. I believe if you can look outside while working, your day will be a lot more cheerful. Many of the windows were from salvage yards. There are two over the kitchen sink and a long narrow one turned it on its side in the bathroom, so I can look down at the yard while I’m brushing my teeth… Every room has at least one window and some have as many as nine. From the kitchen I can watch daffodils bloom, roses change color, and Jupiter’s Beard try to take over the known universe. Out the bathroom window I see a little ruffle of wisteria trained on a trellis attached to the house, a few branches of silver maple, and one 30-foot-tall pear tree.

For some reason, my brain thinks pears are French. Do you grapple with fruit-geography rules in your head? My brain has very strong opinions. Bananas are Cuban, grapes are, of course, Italian, olives are Spanish, and pears are French. Apples are as American as apple pie, of necessity to make the cliché work. Most stone fruit — peaches, plums, nectarines — are international, but cherries are unequivocally British and apricots belong to Turkey. I’m not going to argue if you think this is ridiculous: it is ridiculous. I just haven’t been able to stop.

Having a pear tree is a wonderful thing. In the odd years, it doesn’t produce much: maybe 25 pears. But the even years, whoooo-eeee! I sometimes have almost 50 lbs. of pears in my kitchen, ripening on all the counter tops. Some are rock-hard green, some are kind of rubbery, and a few are starting to move from ripe yellow into rotten so I’d better deal with them today. I’ve given away at least another 50 lbs. to people who dropped by with fruit ladders and bushel baskets. The top third of the tree, I can see from the bathroom, is still laden with pears, but birds are beginning to poke holes in them, and the distance they have to fall makes them less than ideal for saving.

Until I moved to this house, I didn’t know what to do with a plethora of pears, but last fall some friends and I decided if you could make applesauce then you could certainly make pearsauce, and we spent a weekend in a steaming kitchen proving this. I’m a fan of pears poached in red wine, so we added some zinfandel to the mixture and boiled the liquor off, and of course, everything tastes better with cardamom. The product turned out a lovely kind of fleshy color — if you’re descended from Celts, that is — and it was so hot in that kitchen we had to take our shirts off, which, along with the French influence, is how it has come to be known far and wide as Naked Lady Pearsauce.

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  • carol ann hoorn June 21, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    More than 50 years ago, I left San Francisco and arrived in Petaluma, Ca. and met my now long deceased neighbor, Dorothy , who had herself left S.F. in the 1940’s when Petaluma was really a little country town. She taught me how to “can” pears in quart jars, half with mint and half with Cranberry juice. We did fifty jars, tied with
    ribbons and gave them as Christmas gifts. I still think they were the best presents I ever gave.

    • carol ann hoorn June 22, 2017 at 1:05 am

      Correction: Cinnamon sticks, not Cranberry juice. This heat has addled my brain!

  • Molly Peacock June 18, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    Molly Fisk! The poetry of pears….thank you!

  • Shirley June 17, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Your recipe for Naked Lady Pearsauce sounds divine! Especially with cardamon. I think you could sell a ton of it just on the name. Let us know if you decide to go commercial with it.

    • Molly Fisk June 17, 2017 at 10:54 pm

      Ha! I will. 😉

  • Mickey M. June 17, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Wisteria?! You have wisteria. Lucky you. Next to the porch in Georgia, many years ago, I picked up a vine and wound it around the support, not knowing it was a wisteria vine. It bloomed with just one blossom the next year. So sweet, so pretty. Sigh. In hot dry Arizona, I don’t think wisteria would make it. Another sigh. Pears and daffodils. Pearsauce, yummmm. Hugs, Molly. Thank you.

    • Molly Fisk June 17, 2017 at 10:54 pm

      You’re welcome!