How did pears become fancy Christmas presents? It’s thanks to ’12 days of Christmas’ carol, and we have ideas on how to use all those pears

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Most marketers would kill for the kind of free publicity pear growers receive. Every year, millions of Christmas carolers name this fruit again and again and again.

First published in England in 1780, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and its unforgettable partridge in a pear tree (it’s hard to forget all you repeat a dozen times in a song) sparked a custom of giving gifts that has lasted for over 200 years.

Seasonal, the reference to Carol’s pear made sense. Harvesting of pears around the world takes place well into late fall, making pears an ideal addition to holiday fruit baskets or boxes.

Christmas pears are big business now. Premium brands such as Oregon’s Harry & David and Texas’ Pittman & Davis will ship millions of individually wrapped pears in candle foam-lined boxes to countless homes across the country this year – and they’ll earn a pretty dime making too, with these fancy pears costing up to $5 each.

But for anyone who’s received a case or two of these things as a gift, you know it can be hard to use up all that ripe fruit before it turns to mush. How many people actually choose to reach for a pear when the kitchen is full of Christmas treats like pies – uh, I mean an abundance of seasonal apples, oranges and grapefruits?

If you find yourself sitting on a stash of pears this holiday season, here’s what to do with them.

First, store them properly. If left at room temperature, firm pears will soften quite quickly into sweet, juicy treats. And in an instant, they’ll fly just past that point of perfection and where they’ll turn into soft, mealy monstrosities.

The refrigerator is your friend in this case. If you just received a box of underripe pears and you don’t intend to use them right away, immediately place those pears in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, where they will keep for weeks. If they are already wrapped, leave the wrapping in place or just put them on bare and loose. When the mood strikes, place a few pears on the counter to ripen naturally within a few days, or speed up the process by placing them in a paper bag with a banana.

Christmas pears are big business now. Premium brands such as Oregon’s Harry & David and Texas’ Pittman & Davis will ship millions of individually wrapped pears in candle foam-lined boxes to countless homes across the country this year.

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If your pears are already ripe and starting to go soft, you can also slow that down with the crisper drawer in the fridge, buying about a week’s life before they get too mushy.

Most of us eat pears as a quick and relatively healthy treat, but they also lend themselves to a number of recipes.

Pears are the perfect substitute for apples in a rustic pear pie. This free-form confection can be baked with a homemade or store-bought pie crust, and provides a warm, comforting ending to any meal. This dessert is a perfect choice for pears that are still a bit firm because the long cooking time will make overripe pears too mushy.

If you have a few perfectly ripe pears to manage, make brandied pears. This preservation technique produces three jars of gently simmered pears swimming in a syrup enriched with tons of alcohol. The pears on their own make a delicious adult dessert, and the remaining liquid is a deeply flavorful, syrupy blend of pear and brandy, perfect for mixing into holiday cocktails or drizzling over ice cream.

This week’s recipe for Spiced Red Wine Poached Pears calls on the French tradition of pears simmered in wine. This classic dessert gives pears a striking deep burgundy color and warm Christmas flavor with cinnamon, cloves and orange zest. This light and refreshing dessert makes a perfect counterweight to heavy fall and winter stews like beef bourguignon or coq au vin with meat braised in wine.

Pear butter is the answer if you have a large amount of overripe pears. Pears, which are close cousins ​​to apples, simmer into a rich compote with a texture and flavor similar to the more popular apple butter. This pear butter, which you can leave in large chunks or make into a smooth paste, makes a great spread on toast and a great topping for pancakes or waffles.

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