When I got ready to can one last batch for gift-giving this year, I wanted to use some of the fruit I put by this summer and fall. I found a lovely ambrosia conserve recipe in my Ball Book, but it called for pineapple. We don’t grow pineapple around here. But I’ve got pints and pints of frozen pears!
Be careful making substitutions in canning recipes. Unless you’re an expert yourself, consult experienced canners and canning guides before making any changes in a tested recipe. A good place to find an expert is here or here. I’m not an expert. I consulted expert sources in making changes to this recipe to confirm that pears were acidic enough to be substituted in this recipe. Pineapple has a pH of 3.2 to 4.1, while pears are 3.5 to 4.6. As long as the pH is 4.6 or lower, the acidity is high enough to be safely canned in a hot water bath. Because there are some differences in pears, I added lemon juice to the recipe to ramp up the pH even further. (Perhaps unnecessarily, but it doesn’t hurt the flavor and adds a safety net. I’m all for going above and beyond in the interest of safe canning!)
You can find a pH and acid chart here that is quite helpful.
If you’re new to canning, see my tutorial on hot water bath canning. There are additional canning resources at the bottom of that post for more expert information on canning.
For my ambrosia, I also switched the slivered almonds in the original recipe for chopped walnuts, and added the pectin. The last time I made a conserve with frozen, thawed fruit, I had trouble getting it to gel. I ended up with more of a compote than a conserve. Still good, but not what I was after. Frozen, thawed fruit that has been previously cooked (these pears were frozen in a syrup pack) is a bit more “liquidy” than fresh fruit. If you’re using fresh pears in this recipe, you can get away without the pectin.
Get everything chopped, measured, and prepped in advance. Canning goes fast once you start!
How to make Pear Ambrosia Conserve:
4 cups pears, sliced in small pieces
1/3 cup grated orange peel
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
5 cups sugar
1 package pectin
1 cup coconut
1 cup maraschino cherries, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Combine pears, orange peel and juice, and lemon juice in a large pot. Simmer 10 minutes. Add sugar and pectin.
Cook rapidly, stirring, until almost the gelling point. You can add a smidge of butter to keep it from foaming. Conserve should round up on the spoon when it’s ready. Remove from heat and stir in coconut, cherries, and walnuts. Ladle hot conserve into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles.
Adjust lids and bands. Process 15 minutes in a hot water bath. This recipe makes about 7 half-pints (or so). I used a few different sized jars and also had one that I couldn’t fill all the way so I put it in the fridge. I get to keep that one. Yay!)
Conserves are similar in consistency to jams but include combinations of fruits and often raisins or nuts. You can spread conserve on toast or spoon it over french toast or pancakes, pound cake, ice cream, yogurt, or anything else you like. You could make pear ambrosia biscuit twists or pear ambrosia coffee cake. (That sounds so good!!! You would just replace the jam and apple butter in those recipes with the pear ambrosia conserve.) It’s a wonderfully delicious and versatile gift. The perfect treat!
(That’s more of my popcorn, cranberries, and dried orange slices I’ve been stringing into garlands for the Christmas tree.)
I know what Georgia will do when I give this conserve to her. She’ll get a spoon and eat it right out of the jar. I just love 80-year-old ladies. They know how to live!