Pears are flavorful, crisp fruit with a distinctly granular texture. Many people eat them fresh out of hand, but there are an assortment of other foods which can be made with this fruit. If you are suffering from an excess of pears, you may want to skip ahead to the end of this article, which discusses pear preserves and other methods for dealing with large numbers.
Before delving into the uses of pears, it can help to know how to handle the fruit. When selecting them in the market, look for firm, evenly colored specimens. Since they ripen off the tree, perfect ripeness is not necessary, although it certainly doesn't hurt. Store the fruits in a brown paper bag on the counter until they ripen, after which point they should be used or refrigerated. Pears can range in flavor and sweetness depending on variety and when they are harvested; you may want to experiment with several versions.
Many people use pears just like apples, and any recipe which calls for apples can be made with the other fruit instead, from apple pie to applesauce. The flavor and texture will be radically different, but this can be quite enjoyable, especially at a dinner party when you want to introduce guests to some fun and different foods. Pears can be eaten fresh, or chopped up in salads to add a sweet textural element. They can also be offered along with a cheese course, either to replace or supplement other fruits.
When grilled, pears hold their shape and develop a rich sweetness. They can be grilled as a dessert item, or to accompany savory meals; try wrapping them in bacon or prosciutto and then grilling them for an Italian twist. You can also poach pears in wine or other liquids for desserts; cooked like this, they pair very well with vanilla cakes, ice cream, and whipped cream.
Baked pears can be prepared in a number of ways. They can be baked in pies and other fruit desserts such as cobbler, for example. They can also be baked along side roast meats, or baked to make a rich, caramelized soft mass which can be pureed for pear preserves. This puree can also be frozen for use in future dishes.
Pear sorbet is another option. It can be made by coring the fruit and pureeing it, before adding sugar and running the puree through an ice cream machine. Pear puree can also be added to a custard base for ice cream, or mixed with cream to make a gelato which will have a rich, creamy mouthfeel.
Preserves made from this fruit can come in a number of forms. Pears can be treated just like apples in applesauce and apple butter, or they can be used to make savory preserves such as chutney. Try experimenting with different spices to bring out the pear flavor, and remember that the pear texture will carry through even after cooking, with small granular bursts of flavor. You can also dry them by slicing them thinly and laying them out on large racks or running them through a dehydrator or low temperature oven.