Pears can be thick- or thin-skinned with juicy, sweet flesh that can be buttery or slightly granular in texture, depending on the variety. The main British-grown varieties are Doyenne du Comice, Conference and Concorde. Comice has a meltingly soft texture, while Conference is slightly more granular. Concorde, a cross of the two pears, is buttery-textured.
Pears are normally sold hard as they bruise easily. They will ripen in a few days at room temperature, but turn woolly if over-ripe.
Pears are served cooked or raw, but in either case toss in a little neat lemon juice or acidulated water to prevent discolouration. Raw pears need to be prepared at the last moment. Use them in savoury salads, where they can be mixed with bitter leaves, sharp-flavoured cheeses, nuts or air-dried ham. To cook, peel and simmer pears gently, either in a flavoured syrup or with lemon, to enhance their delicate flavour. They are often poached with wine and spices. Cooked puréed pears are good in ice creams, fools and soufflés.
Article by Sybil Kapoor