We’ve never been quick to jump on the bandwagon every time something new hits the supermarket shelves, but we can’t help but be impressed by how technology has changed things—pesto pastes in tubes, processed cheese that lasts practically indefinitely, and freeze-dried food in packages so light they could blow away in a soft breeze. Although we’re practically addicted to whipping topping and nonstick cooking spray, we wish food technologists could do a better job coming up with more helpful inventions.
For instance, we’d like a better way of knowing when a pear is ripe. What we remember most about making Pear Pie with Cornmeal Crumble was the angst of sniffing, pressing and just plain guessing about the fruit’s ripeness. That was before we read How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) and learned pears are harvested when they’re hard and only then do they start to ripen. Also, they ripen from the inside out, which means when the outside is soft, the inside is mushy.
Whenever we’re in a hurry to make the pie, we follow Parsons’ instructions and put the pears in a paper bag to speed things along. Or, we let them ripen on the counter until they’re ever so slightly softer at the stem ends. Either way, it can be a tough call. That’s why we think a graduate student in food technology who’s looking for something to study could revolutionize the industry by creating a tag to attach to fruit—like a Post-It—that changes color when the fruit is ripe. Now, that would be progress.
Pear Pie with Cornmeal Crumble
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 pounds firm pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (about 7 cups)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Bake pie crust 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.
3. To prepare cornmeal crumble, combine flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or your fingers until large crumbs form.
4. To prepare filling, combine pears, granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and ginger. Spoon into pie crust; top with crumble. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake 35 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Serves 8.
Recipe by Jean Kressy.
Per serving: 340 calories, 11g fat, 15mg chol., 3g prot., 63g carbs., 5g fiber, 90mg sodium.
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Photo credit: Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn