The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 10, 2012

Pears a great alternative to apples this autumn season

By Mike Pound
Globe Columnist

WEBB CITY, Mo. — While apples tend to steal the headlines this time of year, there is another fall fruit that is just as tasty, just as versatile and, some say, even healthier -- it’s the pear.

Sometimes overlooked, pears are a perfect way to spice up a pie, and they make a great addition to a salad. Kay McLaughlin, owner of Hazel’s Bakery at the Webb City Farmers Market, said pears make a great alternative to apples when baking.

“Anything you can do with an apple, you can do with a pear,” McLaughlin said.

On a recent Friday afternoon at the market, McLaughlin sold both a pear pie and a pear upside-down cake. McLaughlin said both dishes were prepared in much the same way as their apple and pineapple counterparts. In the case of the pear pie, McLaughlin said she peeled, cored and sliced about six pears the same way she would if she were using apples. The one difference when making a pear pie, she said, is that she cooks them a bit to soften. For her upside-down cake, McLaughlin said she made the same basic cake that she does when making a pineapple upside-down cake and merely substituted pears for the pineapple.

According to the Pear Bureau Northwest website (, the federal Food and Drug Administration says the pear is one of the 20 most popular fruits in the country. According to the website, its 98 percent carbohydrate content make the pear an excellent snack for those looking to lose weight, because carbohydrates contain half as many calories as fat. Because of its high amounts of fructose and glucose, the pear is also a great, quick and natural source of energy. Pears are also a great source of vitamin C, containing 30 percent more potassium than apples. Potassium, according to the website, “is necessary for maintaining heartbeat, muscle contraction, nerve transmission and carbohydrate and protein metabolism.” A recent study of 472,000 middle-age men, conducted by the National Institute of Health, also found that pears could decrease the risk of developing lung cancer.

Locally, the most common pears are the Bartlett and the slightly more colorful red Bartlett. Other popular varieties are the Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Seckle and Forelle.

The pear’s perks extend well beyond the lengthy list of its health benefits. It was once referred to as “a gift of the gods.” Put simply, pears just taste good.

“Pears have a different texture than an apple, but they’re still good,” McLaughlin said.

Kay McLaughlin’s pear pie

5 to 6 fresh pears or two 20-ounce cans of pears

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

2 pre-made pie crusts

1 tablespoon butter

Milk to brush on the top crust

Sugar to sprinkle on the top crust

If using fresh pears, peel, core and slice pears, then cook in a skillet in a little bit of water until soft. Mix the cooked or canned pears with the cinnamon, sugar and flour. Pour the pear mixture into the bottom pie crust, then place the top crust over the pears. Brush the pie crust with melted butter and milk, and sprinkle sugar on the top of the crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for an 1 hour and 10 minutes or until crust is browned to your liking.

Shiraz-poached pears

Serve these on a field greens salad with pecans and feta.

3 Concorde or Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored

3 cups shiraz wine

3/4 cup sugar

Zest and juice of 1 1/2 navel oranges (cut zest into thin strips)

1 cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium pot over medium heat, combine all the ingredients. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce to simmer until pears are easily pierced with a paring knife, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Serve these on a field greens salad with pecans and feta. To make a dressing, cook 3/4 cup of strained liquid used to poach pears, reducing by half. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in 41/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Whisk in 6 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Drizzle over the salad and pecans. Top with a poached pear half.

Adapted from Country Living Magazine