When I take my groups to Emilia-Romagna, one of the highlights is working with Marzia Briganti. Aside from being the gracious host of a lovely bed and breakfast in the Romagnolo countryside, Marzia is also a skilled preserver, with excellent technique and attention to flavor. It's from her that I learned how to make the conserve known as savòr, and on a recent visit we made this conserve of pears, walnuts, and lemons.
For the uninitiated, conserves are made with pieces of fruit as well as dried fruit and/or nuts, resulting in chunky texture. With its autumnal flavors, this conserve not only goes well with cheese, but would make a delightful companion to ham or turkey on a holiday plate.
Marzia's original recipe called for abate pears, which are hard to find in the United States. You can substitute Bosc pears, as they are quite similar, or in a pinch use green Bartlett pears. In either case, make sure they are not too ripe. They should be firm to the touch, and crisp, so that they will retain their integrity when cooked.
Because the lemons are going in rinds and all, it's important to use unsprayed fruit. The rind of the lemons will impart enough pectin to give this conserve a decent set.
In Italy, as in many areas outside the US, it's common to can preserves by simply filling jars, popping on a lid, and inverting the jar to set. I make a point of following the USDA instructions for water bath canning to ensure complete safety.
If you'd like to learn preserving with Marzia, join me on a culinary tour.
- 9 pounds pears (see note above)
- 2 lemons
- 1/4 pound walnuts (about 1/2 cup)
- 10 cups sugar (granulated)
Wash and dry the pears. Trim the tops, then cut them into quarters. Remove the cores, and cut the pears into 1/2" cubes.
Place the pears in a large nonreactive pot, add 1/2 cup of water, and cook, covered, over medium heat until the pears have softened.
Meanwhile, cut the lemons in quarters, remove the center pith, and slice thinly as you would for marmalade.
Chop the walnuts coarsely.
When the pears have softened, ladle off any excess liquid, and reserve.
Add the sugar and the lemons, and stir to combine.
Bring to a boil and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the fruit becomes dense and dark. Add the walnuts, and continue to cook another 20 minutes. When the conserve reaches the gel point, ladle immediately into clean jars, and process in a water bath carrier for 10 minutes.