You can always tell when autumn has arrived by the abundance of pears at the market. From Bartletts to Bosc, Anjou and Comice, the seductively subtle flavor of pears make them one of my favorite ingredients in fall dishes.
Pears fall into two general categories: Asian or European. Asian pears look a lot like apples; they tend to be round and evenly yellowish-tan in color. European types sport that classic pear shape—curved neck and big bottom—and come in an array of colors from red to green to yellow.
Pears are one of the only fruits that ripen off the tree, so buy them hard and let them soften up in a paper bag. You’ll know they’re ready when you press gently on the neck and it gives slightly. The exception to this is Asian pears, which are allowed to ripen on the tree. They should be quite firm to the touch even when ripe and ready to eat when you see them at the market.
While you can count on just about any type of pear to be delicious, each variety has something special to offer.
European pears tend to be sweeter, but the crisp texture and delicate flavor of Asian pears make them a beautiful addition to salads and slaws. On the European side, the brown and bumpy Bosc stay firm when they’re ripe, which means they hold up to poaching and baking. Bartletts come in russet or yellow-green. (Australia’s Packham pear is the Down Under version of Bartlett.) Super soft, juicy and sweet, they’re the pear of choice for canning or purees. Comice pears have a creamy texture that works well with soft cheeses like Camembert or Brie. In California we find the pudgy Anjou pears throughout early winter. Sweet and firm, they’re one of my favorites to simply slice up and eat as a snack.
Ready to dig in? Pick up some Bosc pears and try this Wild Arugula Salad with Poached Pears and Hazelnuts.