When I moved to Canada with my family nine years ago, we moved into a house with four established fruit trees in the back garden. We had two plum trees, a fig tree and a pear tree. Our tree seems to provide pears at their peak through the month of September, usually too many for us to consume before they go off. Every year the challenge was to find a new way to use them up, my wife had the fantastic idea of making a Pear brandy. One year the squirrels and raccoons were particularly pear hungry in our backyard, that year we made it with store bought pears and it worked just as well. This has now become an annual part of our Christmas preparations, we start it in mid to late September and it is ready to drink as early as mid October (although it is usually left until early December). It is really simple to make and provides a delicious way to finish a meal with friends over the holiday season.
We have found that for the Brandy there is no need to break out a $250 twenty year old bottle from the liquor cupboard. If anything I would use one of the cheaper bottles available on account of we are going to add quite a lot of flavor to it.
This recipe requires very little work. Here is a recipe list:
½ liter of Brandy
4 Ripe pears (Peeled, halved and core removed)
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 tsp Vanilla extract
¼ tsp Almond extract
I start by getting my storage jar ready, give it a good clean. Then it really is as simple as placing all the above ingredients in a seal-able jar and pouring the brandy in as the last ingredient. It is sometimes nice to keep some of the brandy until Christmas so you can taste them side by side. When this is first made, I like to taste it every day, the cinnamon and clove have a tendency to increase in flavor as long as you leave them in the jar, I typically remove mine after 5 to 6 days. After that you are good for the long haul. I would try it again a month later, if you are not getting enough Pear flavor you can add more pear at this point if you need to. Store in a cool, dark place until you are ready to enjoy.
After making the pear infused there was enough brandy left over to have a go at the non-vinegar version of a Shrub. These Shrubs were heavy on the alcohol, typically they used a Rum or Brandy base and flavored with orange. As I had a quantity of Brandy left over from the Pear infused Brandy, I will be using a Brandy base and loosely following a recipe from the 1743 book “English Housewifery by Elizabeth Moxon”.
Here is the original recipe: To make an Orange Shrub, take Seville Oranges when they are full ripe, to three dozen oranges put half a dozen of large lemons, pare them very thin, the thinner the better, squeeze the lemons and oranges together, strain the juice thro’ a hair sieve, to a quart of juice put a pound and a quarter of sugar; about three dozen oranges (if they be good) will make a quart of juice, to every quart of juice put a gallon of Brandy, put it into a barrel with an open bung with all the chippings of your oranges, and bung it up close;when it’s fine, bottle it.
I have done my best to break this down into a more modern recipe and I don’t intend to use a gallon of Brandy on this go round, maybe next year.
You will need:
1 liter Brandy (again any type will do) I usually use what is the best price.
The peel of 3 Oranges, I use a peeler and leave the white pith behind.
The peel of 1 Lemon, again use a peeler.
145 g of sugar, this time I just used regular white sugar.
First off, I put the sugar into a large jar and poured the Brandy in as well, I left this for a day or two swirling the jar a couple of times a day until the sugar dissolved. Then I added the peel from my Oranges and Lemon and squeezed the juice out afterwards and also added the juice to the jar as well. This year for an extra experiment, I split the Brandy into two equal parts and separate jars, one I will leave as is. The second jar is going to have some oak cubes added to it for flavour. Oak cubes are usually found at home brew beer stores and usually in a variety of options, I will be adding medium toasted American oak cubes. I am hoping that this will simulate the flavour of being stored in a barrel. Then it is a case of store in a cool dry place for a couple of months until it is ready to drink. I will usually have a taste once every couple of weeks, just to see how things are doing.
If you decide to try either of these drinks, remember I love seeing what you have come up with and what you thought of them. I like to try at least one new variation every year. If you like hearing about historical drinks be sure to sign up for our newsletter and give us a follow on social media. We are the only False Ox around. Coming up next month a history of punch.