The apples were free — crisp, tart, plucked from an untended neighborhood tree of unknown variety. But our attempt at apple butter didn't turn out so well (more like applesauce) and we had leftovers.
Then the pears from our own tree began to ripen. Thanks to Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard's The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving, my wife and I found a good use for this dual fall harvest.
Making sweet preserves is challenging for novices, and this pear-apple-ginger marmalade was no exception. The recipe requires separate processing of the outer rind, the pith (inner white rind) and pulp of two lemons, plus slicing and peeling four cups each of apples and pears. (We had enough fruit for two such batches.) Candied ginger also figures in, as does plenty of sugar.
But on the stovetop, the real trick is knowing when the bubbling, somewhat lumpy mixture of sugar, acid and the fruit's pectin has formed a gel. We used the book's spoon test — a measure of runniness — and we might have cooked it a little too long before canning, because the finished marmalade ended up a little difficult to spread. (Maybe next year the book's "freezer test," which employs a cold plate, warrants a try.) Nonetheless, the pear-apple-ginger marmalade's deep-orange color is lovely, the flavor's great, and we're still eating off those two batches, with a few jars earmarked for Christmas gifts.