Monday, November 18, 2013

Bradford Pear Jelly

If you forage, it is always a good idea to take advantage of the plants that are the most abundant around you.  Bradford Pear trees would definitely fall into that category!  They are everywhere.  Homeowners both hate and love Bradford Pear trees. They are attractive, nicely shaped and resistant to most diseases. However the roots are shallow, the limbs are weak and a strong wind storm easily destroys older trees.

The root stock of the Bradford Pear, Pyrus calleryanna, was brought to the U.S. in 1910 from China. At that time the U.S. pear orchards were being threatened by a blight. Because this root stock was resistant, it was widely cloned.  Further experimentation on this root stock produced the Bradford Pear which was sterile, beautiful, and easy to reproduce which made it a commercial success. It had a built in genetic prevention to self-pollination. This worked great in the beginning when all Bradford Pears were from the same root stock.

As with any successful venture, competition was not long to follow. New cultivars of the Bradford Pear provided enough genetic variation that when cross pollination occurred, some trees produced edible, marble size fruit. This small fruit was then eaten by birds and the seeds transported to new locations. Thus, it has gone from being ornamental to being considered invasive.  The new variations are fertile and bear small edible fruit.

Because the tree is relatively new to the U.S. and probably not bearing fruit during the Great Depression, we do not have the benefit of old recipes that would best utilize the fruit. Most results from an Internet search would tell you that the fruit is inedible. That is not because it is poisonous, but because it has a tart pear flavor and the small size makes it unworthy of commercial usefulness, much like the Crab Apple. Actually, the most common cooking pears in North America are relatives of the Bradford.

If you look for recipes for the Bradford Pear, you will find a handful for making them into wine.  This is understandable because if you have ever tried the fruit, you will first notice the pear flavor and second the tart dryness which would make an excellent dry wine. If you are interested in trying a recipe for pear wine, HERE is a recipe.

My first attempt at using Bradford Pear fruit was to make jelly.  The final product is a beautiful color. It tastes like a pear sweet tart. It is pleasant, reminiscent of a dry white wine.  I think it would make a great glaze for a baked fruit tart or on a meat.  I added pectin to this recipe since it did not appear to have enough to make it gel as I was cooking it.  However, I suspect that if I had picked the pears earlier in the season (currently early November), the pectin in younger fruit may be enough to not use additional pectin.

Bradford Pear Jelly


Plastic grocery bag of Bradford pear fruit
Stick of cinnamon
2 T lemon juice
Box of powdered pectin


Clean the small pears by removing the stem. If you let them sit on your counter for at least a day, the stems dry out and are easier to just pull off. If you get a stubborn one, when you cut the fruit in half and it comes right out. Because it was late in the season, I had no problems pulling the stems off.

Put pears in a large pot. Fill pot with water to just above the fruit. Add stick of cinnamon.

Bring to a boil and reduce temperature to simmer. Cook until pears are mushy (about an hour). Using a potato masher or spoon, lightly mash the pears to help release the pectin and flavor.

Start your canner and water to boil if you plan to complete the jelly on the same day. Mine takes about an hour to get to a boil so now is a good time to turn it on.

At this point, you can drain your mixture using a jelly bag over night, however, I am too impatient for that. Start with a spaghetti strainer and strain the large part parts out of your mixture. Add the leftover fruit mush to your compost. Then move to a fine mesh strainer and strain juice twice. Finally, put coffee filters into your spaghetti strainer and then strain the juice. This takes about 10 minutes which is much easier than waiting overnight and works just as well.

Measure your juice. For every cup of juice, add a cup of sugar. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stir often. 

Pear juice with just added sugar and cinnamon stick.
In a separate bowl, mix your powdered pectin with about a half cup of water until powder is no longer lumpy.  Add to your boiling liquid.  Stir and bring back to hard boil.  Boil for an additional minute.  

Fill your jars with the hot liquid and boil in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Bradford Pear Jelly!


  1. Nice! I used to have a TN house with one of these trees in the front yard. I didn't realize you could do anything with the fruit. I actually spent a lot of time being mad that the previous homeowners hadn't planted a REAL pear tree.

  2. Sounds great! I have never done pear, I might have to give it a try! Thanks for linking up on Super Sweet Sunday.

    Pear Trees & Cherry Trees

  3. What a wonderful post, all the blogs I follow have certainly changed my life, and I have learnt so much and I am very thankful just like you.

    Landscape Gardener Suffolk & Timber Decking Suffolk

  4. Great post. I recently found one of these tress in our yard and I too wondered how I could use the fruit, Very keen on the wine, also making some jelly!

  5. My property is covered in these trees. I always assumed the fruit was non edible as I have never heard of any "old" folk using them, your explanation of why makes perfect sense. I'm excited to give your recipe a try!

  6. Great to know. I have one in my yard that must have crossed with the neighbors regular pear. It has fruit about golf ball size and my horses love them. Guess I'll try some jelly! If I can get them before the horses that is!

  7. Interesting post. One comment: Bradford pears are not sterile, merely self-incompatible (which means pollen from one genotype cannot fertilize ovules from the same genotype). They are highly fertile, which is why you are able to get fruits from them. Those fruits are full of seeds, which birds are spreading like wildfire across the landscape. Bad weedy species. I am glad to know of a use for them!

  8. Great post and I must try. Our town is full of them.

  9. An article i recently read said the seeds combined with stomach acid could produce cyanide in humans or at the least, an upset stomach. An earlier post on here mentioned horses eating the fruit...the fruit might not be safe for horses.
    The jelly recipes could be good to try. A botanist i recently talked to told me to immediately destroy a fruiting Bradford pear tree to keep it from spreading.