Our stone pears: pt. 1
For a couple of years there, twenty or so years back, Peter and Jan lived down the road in an old house on a few acres. Peter Dutch, Jan Canadian, they started to set themselves up for a more self-sufficient way of living.
But Jan was soon drowning in her emotions. She felt lonely, isolated, that she didn’t belong here, there, or anywhere in New Zealand. No family or close friends to turn to, they left for Canada, for family, before who knows where the downward spiral would have ended.
The $400 we paid for their as new tunnel house held good for years before we needed to purchase a replacement plastic skin. As it turned out, the tunnel dimensions could have been custom made for us. Big enough for our tomatoes, peppers, basil, and in more recent ‘warmer’ times, aubergines. Small enough for the two of us to lift to fresh ground come the new spring, eliminating the otherwise essential chore of sterilising the soil once the spent plants had been removed.
Jan gave us a large cast iron casserole dish, and four hefty, last forever pyrex dishes. Just the thing for our woodstove’s cast iron oven.
And I’ve got Peter to thank for alerting me to the possibilities of a couple of big old pear trees in our gully. Not the equally ancient but smaller Williams Bon Chretien pear tree lower down in the gully, whose pears are good for bottling but poor keepers, but the other two, one of which towers over the back of the garage.
He called them stone pears. Round, very hard, 3 to 4 cm in diameter, and anytime I was in the workshop section of the garage mid-autumn when the pears were falling, I’d be resoundingly reminded of the Dutch name for them – it was like someone was throwing stones at the corrugated iron roof.
His grandfather used to make pear cider out of pears like that. I’ve bitten into them a few times over the years, wondering about an acquired taste, trying to catch them off guard at a moment of optimum ripeness. No luck. They stay hard to the bite and so bitter the tannin levels fur up your tongue. But it’s those tannins, tart acidity, fruit sugars (apparently somewhere there in the background!) and the concentration of flavours in that dry, dense flesh that make them so sort after for making cider.
I like cider, apple or pear, and the wine I used to make was more involved, but the only fermenting the cider pears from the tree behind the garage get is as they rot on the ground. And the cows eat the pears that fall from the tree they can get under in Owl Gully Paddock.
Sorry if I led you to think I’d write about my pear cider. Not sorry that I’ll never make wine again and don’t intend to have a go at cider. I’m still plenty busy enough on the homesteading front, and there’s quite a ferment going on behind the eyes every time I sit down to write a blog post!
Ferment of the agitated and excited kind was certainly my emotional state when I thought about what I was about to do to the stone pear behind the garage: Our stone pears: pt. 2. So that’s next Monday’s journal entry on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully.
Thanks for your company. Bye for now.