While browsing the produce at Sneek’s Saturday street market, Brian selected some pears. “Uh, not those,” replied the vendor, “Those are for cooking. These are for eating,” and he selected four eating pears for Brian.
I inquired further, “Cooking for pies?”
The vendor’s partner replied as she passed behind the counter for a second time, listening while assisting another customer, “You cook them on the stove,” she explained, “its very Dutch.” The woman had replied with very little accent in plain English. “They turn red when you cook them, those pears will never ripen, you have to cook them.”
The vendor gave us his full attention, “She’s from Canada, where are you from?” Brian and I chatted with the vendor about how we’d managed to land ourselves in Fryslan and he proceeded to share with us where he and she had visited in the mid-western United States. Then, when she had finished with the other customer, she had a brief enough pause to share the recipe with us for stewed pears. That evening, a quick internet search taught us that this Dutch dish is called stoofperen and the pears used are a unique variety difficult to find in other parts of the world that are eaten only when cooked. Stoofperen are served as an evening side-dish with game, pheasant, or richer meat dishes. Leftovers are typically served as dessert. Ingredients vary slightly, but think of the base as mulled wine and then add pears. Brian and I attempted a miniature batch of stewed pears. You’ve heard the phrase ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ well this evening we had a case of ‘too many listeners alter the recipe.’
Steph’s version of Step-1 was to cut the pears into pieces; pealing was debatable. Brian’s version of Step-1 was to quarter the pears; and the woman at the market said to peel them. I don’t even know how to quarter pears! My remaining whole pear was cut into six pieces as I cut to remove the core. Oops, forgot to peel that whole pear too.Steph’s version of Step-2 was to add the cut pears to a saucepan; Brian agreed. Add a little bit of water and a bit more red wine than water. Add cinnamon. (Here is where the internet recipes will enhance this dish on round two because the recipe variations call for ingredients such as lemon rind, cloves, red wine or water, and black current or berry liquor, and sugar.) Step-3 was to bring the pears to a boil and then let simmer. The woman at the market told us to simmer the pears for three-hours, but since we were only stewing two measly pears we’d agreed to let them simmer until the were soft. Brian’s suggestion for future attempts at Step-3 is that we use a lot of pears and pressure cook them.The pears softened and within one-hour were ready for tasting. Yummy!It just so happened that we had an open container of cream, so Brian enhanced this first stewed pear experience by whipping cream to add to the top!