Even though we have a wonderful bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available at the summer farmers' market I don't typically start canning until the weather cools off. Our home is at the point where all of the appliances need repaired or preferably replaced and the air conditioner is just barely working. Most days I don't bother with it at all, well, unless the flowers are blooming and my allergies can't tolerate the fresh air (I am apparently allergic to anything green.) Thankfully allergy season has passed and we've had an unusually cool summer this year. I've been taking advantage of the chilly nights to replenish our stock of applesauce. My son can put it away like no other food and with several months to go before I typically start canning it I was surprised to find out I was down to my last case. It amazes me how much food an active two year old boy can put away, I wonder some days if he has a hollow leg like his great uncle.
Last week I shared his favorite recipe for Spiced Blueberry Applesauce and the Healthy mini-popsicles I've been making to enjoy during the hot days of summer. This week since pears were on sale I thought I would whip up a batch of my favorite vanilla bean pear sauce. If you happen to have any vanilla beans that you've waited a little too long to use or perhaps someone left the package open on the counter and didn't notice for several weeks (not that I would ever do that) you'll find the beans will quickly dry out and become impossible to work with. Rather than waste these expensive treasures I've found that the best way to rehydrate them is to toss them in the crock-pot on top of some pears or apples. After about an hour you'll find that the pods have rehydrated enough to easily cut and the whole house smells divine. Who needs air fresheners when you've got a batch of vanilla bean pear sauce to make the house smell good!
Because there are so few ingredients in this recipe it's perfect for even the tiniest of tots so in addition to canning instructions I've included small batch freezing instructions. If you've stopped by for my last few posts you may have noticed that I'm working together with OXO Tot as part of their blogger outreach program. They have sent me a wonderful assortment of tools to help make preparing food for my son just a little bit easier, but no other compensation has been given for this post. Today (Friday July 25th) is the last day to enter their giveaway for your own OXO Tots #FirstBites set and Seedling High Chair so check out the giveaway details below.
Crock-Pot Vanilla Bean Pear Sauce
makes roughly 8 half pints or 4 pints
8-10 large pears (approximately 5lbs)
1 vanilla bean
This recipe can be scaled to produce a smaller amount that can be frozen for baby
2 large pears
¼ vanilla bean
potato masher, food mill, or food processor
If freezing for baby food:
Ice cube tray or freezer containers
ziploc storage bags
If canning for the whole family:
water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
8 - 10 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
magnetic lid lifter
clean dish towels and cloths
- Thoroughly wash all fruit before beginning, cut away any brown areas, then slice and peel pears.
- Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the applesauce. Once insides are removed, toss the entire pod in with the apples.
- Combine all ingredients in the Crock-Pot and cook on high for 3 - 4 hours, or until pears mash easily. You can also puree the pear sauce in with a food mill, blender, or food processor for a finer sauce.If you have scaled this recipe down to freeze, check sauce after 1 hour to see if it has cooked down far enough to mash or run through a food mill. Cooking time for the smaller amount varies widely depending on the size of the crock pot, if it is not ready after 1 hour continue to check ever 30 minutes so the sauce does not overcook.
Boiling Water Canning, including instructions for canning food for baby
North Dakota State University - Fargo Extension Service has a great PDF file for home canning fruit and fruit products. It even supplies processing times for fruit-based baby foods which require a longer processing time than standard fruit sauce recipes. Keep in mind that not all fruits and vegetables are safe for canning when making purees for babies. With the exception of apple and pears sauces it is recommended you not puree the food before canning because processing times have not been determined for safe canning of these items.
Processing times for this recipe when canning for baby
are 20 minutes for elevations of 0-1,000 ft and 25 minutes for elevations of 1,001-6,000 ft. If you are not canning this recipe with the intention of making baby food the processing times are 15 minutes for elevations of 0-2,001 and 20 minutes for elevations of 2,000 ft. 4,000 ft. These times are for half-pints and pints only.
- While waiting for pear sauce to cook, sterilize your canning jars, rings, potato masher, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the pear sauce. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
- While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
- Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
- Fill sterilized jars with hot pear sauce leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until ﬁngertip tight.
- Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.
You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.
- Process half pints and pints for 15 minutes, quarts for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. See above for processing times for baby food, they are different than standard canning processing times. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.
- Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal.
- To check the seals of your jars press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the pear sauce. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
- Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.
Freezing for Baby
- Once you have pureed your pear sauce, spoon it into an ice cube tray and cover with plastic wrap then place trays into the freezer.
- If using ice cube trays transfer frozen cubes to a ziplock bag once they have frozen solid. This will ensure more sanitary storage and help prevent freezer burn.
- Your frozen baby food will remain fresh for up to 3 months.
Make sure to experiment with the flavors different types of pears will produce. I used d'Anjou because they were on sale last week, but I've also had excellent results with Bartlett pears.
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