Musical pairing – Winter Song by Sara Bareilles (with Ingrid Michaelson)

As a child, I remember my mother canning tomatoes, making grape juice in jars, putting up pickles, freezing green beans and corn and making jams; in fact most families did because we lived in a rural town surrounded by the Blue mountains and farms. Everyone gardened during the summer months and fruits and vegetables were seasonal – meaning that apples were in the stores in the fall and strawberries were in the produce aisles during the summer – ‘year-round’ produce wasn’t available. So we canned or preserved what we could get our hands on while it was in season.

I also remember being at once terrified of the basement pantry and awed by it at the same time; terrified because I have an overactive imagination and had convinced myself that someone was hiding in a dark corner to capture me and hold me hostage . . . for exactly what I have no idea because we didn’t have any money . . . or maybe those thoughts came from watching The Avengers and I fancied myself an Emma Peel in her oh-so-cool black leather with hair that flipped up on the ends . . .

I was completely smittened by the rows and rows of jars filled with every color imaginable: deep-purple grape juice, forest-green cucumbers, ruby-red beets, cream-colored apple chunks speckled with cinnamon . . . and then there were the Christmas green and red apple rings and pear halves . . . those were a sight to behold.  Mom would put a few drops of red or green food coloring in the jars when she first packed them with fruit and then added hot syrup. I waited for what seemed like an eternity until those fruits turned color . . . usually around the holidays.  Oh the waiting was unbearable at times and I remember standing in that basement corner staring at those jars willing them to turn color – removing a jar and giving a gentle shake to see if the fruit had changed color and then gingerly placing that jar back in its place . . . until the next day when I would repeat the ritual again.  I imagined that the red apple rings would taste like cherry or strawberry and the green pear halves would taste like mint . . . and I have no idea where that came from because no one ever indicated it would be so.

I did a bit of preserving back in the day so when I came across this recipe in the December issue of Food & Wine magazine for Pear Jam with Vanilla Bean, I wanted to see if I still remembered the process – and yes I do! The jam comes together very quickly once you’ve marinated the pears overnight and relies only on it’s natural pectin to thicken, so additional powdered pectin isn’t necessary. The perfume of vanilla plays nicely against the sweet pear and will make nice holiday gifts . . . but I’m making another batch for me and The Professor – it’s perfect on English muffins!

You might also like:
Mrs. Wheelbarrow – Spiced Apples in a Jar
In Jennie’s Kitchen – Microwave Blueberry Jam
Gluten-Free Girl – A Party to Preserve the Season


  1. Pingback: WHITE CHERRY & PEACH JAM | Smith Bites

  2. Aren’t childhood memories the best?! Sadly, my childhood moments with jam included Smuckers. Not the same thing. 🙁

    I’m going to start a bucket list for foods I want to conquer. First on the list is going to be English Muffins. And when I make them, I’m gonna want a nice homemade jam like this one to go with it.


  3. Debra I can tomatoes every year (what Italian doesn’t?) but last year I went into canning overdrive. I made so many delicious jams and I canned fruit in different spirits and I also made pie filling. I had a ball and my family and friends were ecstatic. I made so much (way more than we could consume) even after handing out so many jars to my huge family and friends I had enough to last me a couple of years. This jam looks divine, especially the specs of vanilla bean throughout, I can’t wait to try this!

  4. wow lovely jam can’t beat homemade and lovely post Rebecca

  5. This looks wonderful! I love the color and the recipe sounds delicious and really simple enough for anyone to make.

    Do you think all kids are scared of basements? I was too. But there was a freezer down there that my mother put little pecan pies in….I was forever stealing them and to this day, I prefer my pecan pie frozen!)

  6. So first let me begin by saying that I ADORE this song. I discovered it last holiday season, and I listen to it non-stop during the month of December. Secondly, I so enjoyed hearing about your childhood recollections about your basement pantry. Such a wonderful image of you seeing all those brightly colored jars! (I want to write about this now in a story!) Thank you for sharing sweet friend. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  7. I couldn’t agree more. I bet the jam would taste wonderful with that corn muffin recipe I posted. Great flavors here… and so simple.

  8. We had a Cellar when I was little where all the jams & preserves & lots & lots of pumpkins on racks were stored, I used to be terrified of going down those steep steps into the cool earth cellar absolutely believing ‘something’ would get me…, must be a kid thing huh. I didn’t reconnect with my love of preserving till just a few years ago as well.., its fun & I love having wonderful selections of these condiments on hand, don’t seem to get the time I imagine I need to have the sort of ‘cellar’ we had as kids though. Love this recipe…, thanks for sharing.

  9. I loved the Avengers growing up!!! And from the sound and look of this jam I will love it as well. One of my goals over the Christmas break is to try my hand at canning. I’ve always shied away from it (I suppose one of the downsides to ServeSafe certification) but you’ve convinced me since I don’t have to do the whole water bath thing!!!

    I adore pears so I simply must make this!!

  10. Gorgeous and simply a perfect gift! I need more homemade jam in my life.

  11. Debra, those pictures are awesome! Really, really beautiful. And I had to laugh while I was reading this–I was always a little afraid of the basement storeroom too, but I pictured a Nancy Drew sort of scenario with sliding panels and unscrupulous kidnappers…

    • Ah yes, Nancy Drew – I read her too but preferred the Hardy Boys – I guess they were more rough and tumble and as you can guess, I was somewhat of a tomboy! Unscrupulous Kidnappers indeed!

  12. Such a pretty jam, Debra. I think I’ll take some on a biscuit please. 🙂

  13. Wow… this is a dream combination!!! Great job!

  14. After beginning my adventure in canning over this past year, I’m decidedly hooked on it. I can’t wait to give this lovely jam a try!

  15. This pear vanilla jam is such a treat. Love that I can see all of those wonderful specks of vanilla seed. Oh so joyful for the holidays! xo

  16. I really like your combination of fruits here. Sounds just right. I fell in love with vanilla beans in jam this summer when I made a two plum jam with vanilla



  17. That looks fabulous! I can almost taste it now…

  18. The idea of this spread on an English muffin has me stopped in my tracks.

  19. Such gorgeous flavors. These would be a wonderful and unique gift, for sure!
    I had the same scary basement 🙂

    • I really am giving jars as gifts – it’s pretty and some of the best jam I’ve made; and I’ve had quite a few people tell me they too, have basement stories!!

  20. This looks sooooo yummy. There is just something comforting about rows of preserves, isn’t there?

  21. This sounds amazing!! Happy holidays to you!

  22. i’m just now realizing how incomplete my life is without vanilla bean in it!

  23. You know I love all the homemade jams and preserves and this one will have to be added to my list! I am printing the recipe now! 🙂 Love your memories of the spooky basement. I had one of those, too. Thankfully, our basement in this house is not so I can run down to get some of my canned goodies from the Summer.

    • this jam will not disappoint Gwen – the vanilla is so subtle but your brain says, ‘mmmmm, what is that?’ Delicious!

  24. I bet this is delicious! I love the vanilla bean specks.

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