It’s that time again! I’ve mentioned before the Orchard round the back of work. Our building’s on the site of an old farm that was at one point a monastery. The orchard’s recently planted but round the back of the buildings there’s a few patches of bramble and trees that clearly outdate the labs.
I was sniffing around there a few weeks ago to get fresh bramble shoots to feed locusts ( as you do) when I noticed a pear tree. I must have been past it before on a few occasions but I’ve never noticed it in fruit before.
A tentative bite told be immediately that these pears should not be eaten. Painfully astringent, sour and hard they’re not going to make an edible crumble for sure but astringent and sharp are essential traits in one particular kind of pear. Have I stumbled across a perry pear?
If I have, it’s the foraging find of a lifetime! I mean like seriously this is a major bit of luck!
Perry for the uninitiated is not pear cider ( but it is …). Pear cider implies something made from dessert pears or a mix of pears and apples. Perry however needs a very special fruit. It’s made like cider – crush and press fruit, add time and microbiology but the end result bears as much resemblance to cider as wine does.
Perry nearly went extinct, partly from being out of fashion ( blame Babycham for that ) but also perry pears can be a bit crap. The trees get very large, give poor yields and many will only fruit every couple of years. My friend here measures at 7m – not really a garden plant.
Luckily artisan booze and stuff came back into trend just in time and far sighted individuals starting saving the few trees hanging on to life in abandoned orchards around the country. Perry is coming back but it’s still lagging about fifteen years behind cider.
So I’m sacrificing some cider this year, there’s only so much space in the boot on scrumping day so we’re getting fewer apples in favour of the pears.
Picking the pears was mostly a question of picking up – scrambling around in brambles for fragrant yellow windfalls and then improvising a Lost Ark style whip from my belt and dog lead to grab and shake the higher branches ( I can’t believe it worked). An hour of thorns, bleeding and excited dog saw us staggering back to the car with a big bag of pears and two more of apples.
To call these pears aromatic might be an understatement – we needed the window open on the way back. Pears need to sweat for days to weeks before pressing – mellow, sweeten and mature, as most of these were already on the ground I figure they’ve matured enough.
Being small I didn’t have to chop these things – a quick rinse and into the pulper. They’re easier than apples to squish, took just half an hour to do the lot.
Four got saved from the pulper – they’re sitting in vodka and if it tastes even remotely pleasant in a week, I’ll get a few more.
The pulp has to sit before pressing – tannins precipitate, esters form, starch breaks down to sugar and all sorts of stuff so I left it overnight – any longer and I figured it microbiology might get the better of me, things were already going fizzy by the next morning.
The press did an excellent job as always and we got just short of ten litres of juice. Rather than leaving things to wild microbes the stuff got a dose of Campden tablets and left overnight. The specific gravity came out a 1060 – impressive – and pH 4 which is pretty much bang on for perry, we’re looking at 6 -7% alcohol.
A quick decant into a nice fresh bucket and a good dose of yeast and we’re on our way