Thursday, November 17, 2011

Imprisoned pears

Thanks to another e-mail* making the rounds, I learned that the full-size pears in pear brandy are grown inside the bottle. Curious, I went in search of images and information. Growers place a bottle over a tiny bud and allow the fruit to mature on the tree (2nd image, another photo here). "It may be easier than putting a ship in a bottle but requires just as much patience," writes the Telegraph. After harvest, the bottle and pear are carefully groomed and cleansed by hand, and then the alcohol is added (1st image) and the bottle is sealed and labeled (narrated slideshow here). DIY instructions are offered by Ghislaine Coulon, a landscape designer who works part-time at Leeds Castle in Kent, U.K. She remembers the traditional French technique from her childhood in Normandy, and also recalls the fate of the pear after the bottle was drained: "My grandfather had a very thin-bladed knife - he used it to cut slivers from the pear and picked them up on the point of the knife." Known in France as "poire prisonnière," the pear brandy is marketed in the U.S. as Pear-in-the-Bottle brandy by Clear Creek Distillery (Portland, Oregon), Pear and its Spirit at Black Star Farms (Traverse City, Michigan), and La Captive Poire Williams at the Boisset Family Estate (St. Helena, California). At Carl Schmitter's Chateau Buffalo (Buffalo, New York), the pears are confined in their vessels in the orchards of Blackman Homestead Farm (Lockport, New York) before those vessels are filled with a 21% alcohol brandy and hard cider concoction. At last, they are allowed a modicum of freedom. Schmitter says, “I’ve found that most of them do float, but occasionally we do get a sinker." So the pears remain captive their entire lives, but at least they do not suffer the torture and indignity of these watermelons!

*from Barbara!

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