Jan 23 2014

Adventures in Canning: Honey & Sage Pear Jam

January’s kitchen exploits have been defined by pears. In the first week of the month, I purchased pears to munch on and impulsively decided to bake a few into a pear tart. In the second week of the month, I purchased sixteen pounds of Concorde pears to transform into two versions of a pear jam. And last week, I purchased eight more pounds to incorporate into pear marmalade, not realizing I only needed three pounds for the recipe. I currently have those five remaining pounds of pears sitting on my counter, slowly softening, reminding me to “do something, already”.

But before I turn my attention to those needy fruits, I’d be remiss not to share this pear jam, a jam that morphed the pears’ white and green flesh into a color that resembles the final orange-pink hues in a magical sunset. As is the case with many jam recipes where the fruit’s juice isn’t already oozing out (see: peaches), I macerated the pears overnight, letting time, sugar, and acid gently coax the juice out of the pears. When I pulled the bowl out of the fridge the following morning, the bowl was nearly overflowing with bobbing pears and juice.

I dumped all of these contents into my brand new copper preserving pan, a birthday present from my mother-in-law. (In fact, if you’re reading this, Arlene, you’re now off the hook for ever getting me another present). I’ve lusted after such a pan for years, craving the wide surface area, the way copper conducts heat – and, let’s face it, its stunning beauty, especially when afternoon light is filtering into my kitchen. Though any food would simmer away in this pan and look all the better for it, these pears darted and danced on their new, shiny stage, cooking in a fraction of the time I expected. Shortly before pouring the jam into jars, I stirred in a few dollops of honey and added two sprigs of sage, letting the herbs soak in the completed jam for 10 minutes.

Once canned and sealed, I promptly unsealed one (okay, I’ll be honest, one of them didn’t seal: lucky me!) and dug a spoon in. This pear jam is nothing like the pear butter I’ve made in the past. It’s much smoother in texture, and even though I left chunks of pear in the jam, when spread on toast or included on a cheese plate, it remains delicate, just sweet enough to grab your attention, but in a harmonious way.

Pear Jam with Honey & Sage

Recipe Source: Blue Chair Jam Cookbook

Yields: 10 8-ounce jars


  • 8 pounds ripe pears, cored and peeled (I used Concorde)
  • 3 pounds 7 ounces white cane sugar (I used 3 pounds)
  • 9 ounces lemon juice
  • 1 small bunch of sage
  • 1-2 ounces honey
  • a few drops of cider vinegar


  1. Day 1: Chop the pears into 1/4 inch pieces. Combine these pear pieces, sugar, and lemon juice in a giant bowl, stirring to combine. Press a sheet of plastic wrap onto the surface of the mixture and let macerate in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Day 2: Place a saucer with 3-4 teaspoons in your freezer. You’ll use this to test the jam later.
  3. Remove the pears from the refrigerator and transfer the contents of the bowl into a copper preserving pan or wide non-reactive pt, stirring well. Position a food mill over the bowl that had held the pears and set aside.
  4. Bring the pears to a boil over high heat, stirring every few minutes. Cook until the mixture starts to thicken and the pears appear translucent, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer 1/3 of the mixture to a food mill. Puree this mixture into the bowl below and then transfer the pureed pears back into the pan with the remaining pears.
  5. Put the pan over medium high heat and continue to cook, stirring, until the jam has thickened, about 15-20 minutes more.
  6. To test the jam, remove a spoon from the freezer and put a small dollop onto the spoon. Return the spoon to the freezer for 3-4 minutes. If the jam is gloppy and runs slowly when you nudge it and turn the spoon upside down, your jam is nearly done. If it runs or is too watery, continue to cook and then test on another freezer spoon.
  7. Once the jam is complete, stir in the honey, vinegar, and nestle the sage sprigs into the mixture. Let the sage steep for 1-2 minutes.

Are you storing it?

Using a stainless steel spoon or a ladle to transfer the jam into its storage containers. Let cool on the counter before putting into the refrigerator. Keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks.

Are you canning it?

Ladle into oven sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. (To sterilize your jars in the oven, heat your oven to 250 degrees before placing your jars and lids onto cookie sheets. Keep in the oven for at least 30 minutes, but longer is fine, too.)

After filling your jars and securing the lids (use gloves if the jars are too hot to handle) carefully put the jars back on the cookie sheet(s) for 15 minutes.

Remove the jars from the oven, keeping them on their sheet(s). Put the sheet on a wire rack and cool them overnight. Test the seal and place any that didn’t seal into the refrigerator. Store the rest in a cool place for up to 1 year.