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This year it seems that every pear tree, even those that have never produced fruit, is completely loaded with fruit. Pears are one of the few fruits that improve in flavor and texture when ripened off the tree. They should be picked when mature, but still hard. Keep the unripe pears in a cool, fairly humid place until they yield to a slight pressure on the stem end. The small, brownish Seckel pear is a delight to eat out of hand, or for pickling to garnish the Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham. The Bartlett pear, which is the variety mostly grown locally, is good for eating fresh, stewing or canning . Pears do not freeze well, becoming mushy in texture and unattractive in appearance. My favorite use of these pears is in a fresh pear salad. FRESH PEAR, CHEESE SALAD 2 fresh, ripe bartlett pears 4 tablespoons cottage cheese, or crumbled Bleu cheese, or shredded sharp cheddar lettuce leaves Ken’s steak house raspberry vinegarette dressing Wash, peel and cut pears in halves, lengthwise. Remove core and stem. Place one pear half onto lettuce leaf. Fill center with cheese of your choice- I prefer bleu cheese, but the cost is getting beyond me. Pour a goodly amount of the dressing over each and serve immediately. CURRIED PEARS 3 large winter pears 3 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons brown sugar 3 teaspoons mild curry powder 1/4 teaspoon salt Wash and dry pears, do not peel. Cut in halves lengthwise and remove core and stem. Place pears in single layer in a buttered, shallow baking dish, cut side up. Combine butter, sugar, curry powder, and salt. Place equal portion of mixture in center of each pear half. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until pears are tender when pricked with a fork. Serve with roast pork, chicken, turkey or duckling. COUNTRY PEAR PIE One package refrigerator pie crusts 3/4 cup brown sugar 3 tablespoons all purpose flour 1/8 teaspoon salt Dash of ground cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon 1/3 cup heavy cream 8 to 10 medium pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoons butter In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, salt, and spices. Stir in cream. In another bowl place prepared pears and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add brown sugar, cream mixture and mix well. Set aside. Line a 9 inch pie plate with one sheet of pastry. Fill with pear mixture and dot with butter. Cover with second pastry sheet, seal and crimp edges. Prick top with fork in several places to allow steam to escape. Bake in pre-heated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake for 30 minutes more, until crust is lightly browned and filling is bubbly. Place pie ring over if edge is getting too brown. Remove from oven and cool on rack. UPSIDE DOWN PEAR CAKE 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons light corn syrup 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 4 cooked pear halves 10 maraschino cherries, halved and drained 1/4 cup chopped pecans 1/2 cup butter 1 and 1/4 cup sugar 2 eggs 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 teaspoon vanilla whipped cream Melt 2 tablespoons butter and syrup in a 9-inch square baking pan. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter mixture. Cut each pear half into four wedges. Arrange pears and cherries in a sunburst pattern over the brown sugar. Sprinkle with pecans. Combine flour, baking soda and salt, set aside. Combine 1/2 cup softened butter with 1 and 1/4 cup sugar, beat on medium speed with mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time beating until well blended. Add the flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in vanilla. Spoon batter evenly over the pear slices. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until cake tests done. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Invert cake onto serving plate. Serve warm, or room temperature with whipped cream.

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