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Spiced pear chutney

This chutney is something special. I had been making so much applesauce lately that I kinda forgot how exciting cooking with other fruit can be. Don't get me wrong - we go through a lot of applesauce in this house so it's nice to have it around. But if applesauce was my comfy everyday jeans and t-shirt, this spiced pear chutney is a skirt and fancy beaded necklace. I'll put some away and it'll be perfect for a special occasion over the holidays.

This chutney was made with the first fruit of the season off our backyard pear tree. The pears were combined with onions, cranberries, and some of my favourite spices to create a richly-coloured condiment that'll go nicely with a variety of dishes. But my absolute favourite way to enjoy chutney is with crackers and cheese.

This recipe makes enough chutney to fill three pint/500 ml jars. To prepare, I heat my jars first in boiling water then left them in the hot water until ready to be filled. The sealing discs and ring bands were also boiled and left in the hot water until ready to be used.

If canning isn't your thing, you can safely store the chutney in the fridge for a couple months or pop some in the freezer.

Here's how I made it:
makes enough to fill three 500 ml/pint jars

2 lbs firm pears, peeled, cored, diced
1 1/2 lbs onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup dried cranberries
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 cups cider vinegar
1 156 ml (5.5 oz) can tomato paste

I started by putting my diced pears and onions in a large stockpot and sweating them for five minutes over medium heat. Then I added the rest of the ingredients and increased the heat to high to bring the mixture to a boil. I lowered the heat back to medium and allowed it to simmer, uncovered and stirring regularly, until it was the thickened consistency I wanted for my chutney, which took about 50 minutes.

I spooned the finished chutney into my jars, leaving a half inch of headroom. I poked the end of a wooden spoon down into each jar a few times to remove any air bubbles. Then each jar rim was wiped with a clean wet cloth to remove any spilled chutney that might get in the way of a good seal.

How gorgeous is that colour? I mean, really. Gorgeous! And the smell! Mmmm...

The sealing discs were lifted from their water and secured in place with the bands. Then the jars were lowered into the boiling waterbath canner and processed for 15 minutes. When done, I removed the jars from the canner and left them on the counter to fully seal as they cooled. POP!

I've tucked some of this away for a special occasion. But I had to keep a jar in the fridge too. Who knows, maybe I'll have a little with some cheese and crackers just for a pick-me-up between preschool and grocery shopping one day. I mean, why not? Maybe I should get that skirt and fancy beaded necklace out more often too.

What's your favourite way to use fresh pears? What exciting flavours are filling your canning jars this season? Does your family have any foods that only come out at special occasions?