Secrets of Vanilla Pear Jam and Patience

I should warn that even though vanilla pear jam gives the impression of sugar and spice and everything nice, I’m not going to sugar coat things: making this jam takes time, patience, and some forethought. Heck, it took me two years for the pieces of this recipe to fall into place, which I’ll explain in a bit.

That said, it’s not a difficult recipe and once the jam is on—say—a biscuit, it’s quite a moment. Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t caution: if you lose interest easily or don’t have the heart for jam making you should turn back. No need to sacrifice unsuspecting pears or innocent vanilla beans please, just move on.

And if I can be frank, sometimes I forget that having a killer jam recipe doesn’t solve all your problems, which is too bad because life is making me a little testy at the moment. That said, this jam comes as close to an opioid as any fruit could and even two years later, when I taste it, clouds part.

This all began when I was in Old Montreal, a few years ago. I was staying at a hotel that offered a full spread for breakfast, which included a trio of artisan jams. All three flavors I can’t recall, but the vanilla pear variety stuck with me; so much so that I happily forked over 10 dollars to take a jar home: and so began my obsession.

Now, this was not without overcoming hurdles. I dislike peeling fruits with edible skins. I have an unsubstantiated distrust of supermarket pectin. And I’ve been buying Red Bartlett pears for years because of their rosy come-hither complexion. Turns out, these hang-ups combined make for pretty lousy pear jam. Eventually they provided closure as to why (again, for years) I could never quite get it right.

The stars started to align for me recently when I came across a recipe for homemade pectin from pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick of Sofra. I also was forced to buy Bosc pears at the farmers’ market, which—don’t tell—I usually don’t purchase … because they look ugly. I know. Turns out these ugly pears hold up quite well under heat and make for lovely jam, providing a smooth texture with hints of honey. I know. Serves me right.

And so it goes, you can’t judge a fruit by its skin, nor can you rush making jam. Good jam takes time, and though it can’t directly decrease life’s bitterness, it can certainly sweeten your day a bit, if you are willing to put in the effort.

Vanilla Pear Jam

6-7 small Bosc pears (about the size of light bulbs), peeled, cored and cut into small 1/2 inch pieces
~1/4 cup sugar (may vary depending on the sweetness of your fruit)
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped out
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup green apple pectin (recipe follows)

Heat pears, sugar and salt in a saute pan on medium heat until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla bean (seeds and pod), lemon juice and pectin and let simmer until mixture thickens. Remove vanilla bean pod. You can test to see if your jam is the right consistency by putting a little jam on a plate and then sticking it in the fridge for a few minutes. It should be slightly thick and pretty firm, but still a tad runny. It took me about 10-15 minutes of cooking once the pectin was added to achieve this.

Makes about 2 cups

Green Apple Pectin
Adapted from Maura Kilpatrick

3.5 pounds of green apples (about 7)
6.5 cups water
4 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Core apples and cut into quarters, leaving skins on (yah!). Bring water and apples to boil in a large sauce pan. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Pour into fine mesh strainer and then strain again through a cheesecloth, removing apple pulp. Pour apple liquid back into saucepan and combine with sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and heat 10-15 minutes; skim off foam as needed.

Makes 1.5 quarts

-Don't overcook the apple pectin or it will impart an apple flavor to your pear. The pectin was more runny than I remembered pectin packets to be, but it was just fine in the end.

-This obviously makes extra pectin, so theoretically you can jam it up all fall and winter. I have the extras in my freezer. Fingers crossed.


  1. I love the combination of flavors in this jam. It looks divine.

  2. so lovely! And I love your story, too.

  3. You can't imagine how much I appreciate your willing to share this time-intensive recipe with us. It looks wonderful and I'm so drawn to it I want to rush out and buy pears NOW. Luckily, I have no problem with Boscs, so I won't need any counseling after the jamming is done.

    Again, thanks!

  4. This sounds amazing! About the pectin, green apple as in grannysmiths or as in an under-ripe apple?

  5. Good question, Brooke. Green apple as in grannysmith. Not as in a jealous, under-ripe, or young apple. ;) Thanks for stopping by and happy jaming!

  6. how ambitious of you! ill confess that i always use store-bought pectin, but at least my apple and pear skins don't go to waste--my horses enjoy them very much. :)

  7. My pear jam seemed to set without pectin, but I think it was mostly sugar doing the job. I think I lost more of the 3lbs of pears that I started with because they were pretty ripe. I'm too much of a novice to adjust sugar amounts yet. It is more of a confection than I'd like, but yum.
    Can't wait to try making my own pectin though, thanks!

  8. pear and vanilla sound perfect in a jam! this looks delicious!

  9. That is so cool you made your own pectin. OMG what a great recipe.

  10. this looks good! I've got ginger pear butter on my list of things to make this holiday, so studying your ingredients and techniques are so helpful and timely!