Actually it's always the season for gleaning fruit somewhere in the world. But right now in Central Oklahoma, we are looking at an extended period of mid-20s (F) forecast for a week out, and that means the Keiffer pears (and perhaps a few other varieties) are as ripe as they are going to get on the tree. They have been, in many cases, dumping their fruit onto people's lawns for weeks. I have seen half a dozen "carpeting the lawn" lays of fallen pears in the last ten days, all of them in places where I had no ready way to get permission for gleaning. It's been killing me.
Kieffer pears vary in size; the biggest of them are almost twice as big as a supermarket Bartlett, but the tiniest are sometimes no bigger than Seckels. They are a crisp sweet "cooking pear" with a lot of snap and crunch and chew to them; they don't easily blett up into a soft dessert pear texture, but if you get your timing just right with a mix of fridge chilling and countertop aging, some of them will do so. A mature happy tree will drop several hundred pounds of fruit, so it's no surprise that people often just let them lay, especially if they aren't into processing the crunchy-textured bounty into dried fruit, pear butter, juice, jelly, or perry.
Today I learned that a woman in a nearby town was offering her yard pears on Facebook to "anybody who wants to come by and collect them for your deer feeder." After some back and forth to learn how to get access to her fenced yard patrolled by two vicious (LOL, not) hound dogs, I showed up ready to pick up her pears. (She asked that the ones still on the tree be left, no problem.) Her tree was impressive; trunk more than a foot in diameter, lowest branches barely reachable, but the entire footprint out to the dripline was basically covered with pears touching each others. For some reason hers trended small, and there were some windrows of rotten fruit she'd raked together where the new falls were rotting swiftly because in contact with the older rotten fruit. It was pouring down rain and the hound dogs were very "helpful" as I picked up fruit, but even so I got four huge shopping bags filled in about half an hour. I could barely lift/move them when I tried to shift all four bags at once, so I estimate the haul at 80+ pounds, possibly closer to 100.
The downside is that it's not a huge yard and those two hound dogs live there, so there's bound to be some invisible dog waste contamination on the surface of the fruit. I'm not unduly bothered by this -- any tree fruit likely has bird waste on it -- but I do feel that these pears need to be well-washed (meaning they won't keep as long) and then cooked for maximum food safety. So simple dehydration or juicing for raw consumption are processing options I'm taking off the table for myself. My plan is to wash them all in hot water (tonight) and sort out the most perfect/unblemished for short term storage and possible canning in a few days. Then I figure I will cut up the rest and make compote or pear butter with the bulk, while juicing the remainder and using the juice to make a pear jelly. Or I might just pasteurize the juice and then ferment it; we'll see how I feel.
That's a ton of processing work so the first thing I did was take half of them to my sister. Boom! Task cut in half.
The frightening thing is that this morning, I put out feelers on a handful of my local Facebook groups offering to clean up surplus fruit that anybody wants to rescue from going to waste in a week when it all freezes to mush. No idea if I'll get any nibbles, but if I do, I'll be drowning in pears!
Anybody else get an excellent gleaning opportunity and a bounty of unappreciated fall fruit lately?
since kieffer pears don't have a very strong flavor, but have a fair amount of sugar in them, you an make a pretty nice syrup from them by boiling down the juice. it's a pretty good way to use up a lot of them.