when life gets in the way, and a recipe: apple and pear pie

My week was wrapping up so nicely. My two-week stretch of being on call was coming to a rapid end. I was planning a celebratory dinner at my home for my team of hardworking students, residents, and fellows. I was the subject of a lovely interview on the kitchen generation, a beautiful blog written by a group of five ΓΌber-talented young bloggers. It was announced that my recipes, along with those of several bloggers whose work I admire, were to be included on Gojee, a recipe sourcing site for the photographically-inclined. And finally, I held in my hands the print copy of my homage to Southern food, published in the Florida Times-Union newspaper.

It was turning out to be a pretty great week.

And then I got a text from my mom on Thursday morning, shortly after starting my hospital rounds.

“I’m calling 911 now,” read her text.

My dad had fallen backwards in his recliner the day before and bumped his head on the hard tile floor in my parents’ living room. The bump on the head might have been no big deal, but he was on Coumadin, a blood thinner. Shortly after the fall, he developed a severe headache, one that wouldn’t go away despite the multiple Tylenol tablets he took for it. The nausea and vomiting started soon after. He became confused. Then he wound up in an ambulance, and next, the emergency room at my hospital. A CT scan of his brain and blood work followed. The diagnosis was a subdural hematoma, bleeding on the brain. And this diagnosis bought him a stay in the neurosurgical intensive care unit.

Things are looking up, though. He was transferred to a regular floor room on Sunday. The word from the physical therapist is that he’ll go to a rehabilitation center after his discharge from the hospital, something that my mom and I think he desperately needs. My children visited him yesterday, and though they hesitated slightly when they saw the various tubes and electrical leads adorning his weakened body, they gave him big bear hugs around the neck.

apple and pear pie | the merry gourmet

And I made a pie.

I’ve been waking up with pie on my mind, and I really, really needed to bake something. I made an all-butter pie crust dough last weekend, maybe because I knew I’d have Sunday morning to put it to good use. As I rolled the buttery dough into a flat circle, I thought about my dad and how his life – and my mom’s life – might be different after this past week. I was getting angry and frustrated, and I think the pie dough felt it. It fought my efforts, tearing around the edges, not behaving as I wanted it to. I gathered the torn pieces, balled them up, and decided to roll the pastry dough out again rather than start over.

As someone special told me yesterday on Facebook, “Relax. That’s why it’s not working. Pie crust senses your fear.”

I cleared my mind, relaxed, and rolled it out again, slowly and methodically. It worked beautifully.

apple and pear pie | the merry gourmet

Sand pears? Pineapple pears? I just call them backyard pears.

The filling was a combination of some Gala apples we had in the refrigerator and some of the green and brown speckled pears you see above. A friend of my husband gave us a huge bag of these pears. I thought a pie would be a wonderful way to honor that lovely fruit.

We’re starting our week with this apple and pear pie. I’m starting the week with a more clear mind. I think I’m ready for what these next days have in store.

I can do this.

apple and pear pie | the merry gourmet

Yield: 8 servings.

Cook Time: 1 hour

Apple and Pear Pie

I used pears common to the north Florida region. I think of them as backyard pears, since I grew up with this type of pear tree in our backyard. You can use Bartlett or Bosc or any other type available in your local market.


1 pound apples (such as Gala, Pink Lady, or Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 pound pears, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Double 9-inch pie crust, ready-made or made from scratch


    1. Adjust an oven rack to lowest position and place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

    2. In a large bowl, gently toss the apples and pears with the sugar, tapioca, lemon juice and zest, spices, and salt. Set aside for 15-30 minutes.

    3. Roll out the bottom crust of the pie dough into a 12-inch circle and carefully fit into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Spread the apples and pears in the bottom of the unbaked pie crust in the pie plate. Roll the top crust into a 12-inch circle and place carefully over the pie plate, centered over the filling. Seal and crimp the edges of the pie crust and cut four vents into the top of the crust.

    4. Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes, then decrease oven temperature to 375 degrees. Continue to bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until crust is golden brown and juices of the fruit are bubbling. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

The baking method - starting the pie at 500 degrees, and reducing the temperature through the baking process - comes from the Classic Apple Pie recipe in The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

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23 Responses to “orange-scented fig jam”

  1. tami — July 14, 2011 @ 10:38 am

    I’m gonna need you to send me some of this, k? πŸ™‚ What a lovely post, dear. xoxo

  2. How can you not like this jam??? I made a fig/balsamic jam last year and it blew everyone away. Now this pairing is just bursting with flavor and the booze… how can you go wrong with adding booze!

  3. With Style and Grace — July 14, 2011 @ 11:00 am

    Love the combination of figs and a hint of orange! Great photos – makes me want to eat your cracker bites πŸ™‚

  4. Maggie at Eat Boutique — July 14, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    Beautiful. I need figs right now, lady, so I can whip this up. You know how I like my booze in… anything. πŸ™‚

  5. Nelly Rodriguez — July 14, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    oh this jam looks delicious! love the “orange scented” part, so evoking! Only thing I can’t agree with? Those Triscuits. I am on #WheatThinsTeam πŸ˜‰ but due to the fact that jam looks amazing, I’ll let it slide!

  6. Junia @ Mis Pensamientos — July 14, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    i love fig jam. in spain, they eat it with manchego cheese + crostini bread!!

  7. Sanjeeta kk — July 14, 2011 @ 11:16 am

    What lovely color and love those fig seeds in the jam. I like the orange tang in it.

  8. Jamie — July 14, 2011 @ 11:16 am

    Love the touch of orange! Oh I am now imaging your mom as mine – she hated cooking although she seemed to prefer hand washing and drying the dishes even to cooking. But no washer either? Wow! The jam looks absolutely heavenly!

  9. Sounds lovely. Now that I’m past thinking that everything fig would taste like those horrid fig newtons of my youth; I can’t seem to get enough of them. Orange sounds perfect…better than the original!

  10. Isabelle @ Crumb — July 14, 2011 @ 11:41 am

    Mmmm.. fig jam is a favourite of mine, both with and without cheese. I can just imagine how wonderful it must be with a hint of orange and cinnamon (…and a whole 1/3 cup of Cointreau? Be still my heart!).
    Too bad I don’t have any colleagues who can bring me baskets of figs. Sigh.

  11. Paula — July 14, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

    A beautiful few moments down the memory lane of your youth and a delicious looking jam. Thank you πŸ™‚

  12. DessertForTwo — July 14, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    Such a lovely, lovely post. I loved hearing about the house you grew up in.

    Your mom’s feelings about cooking reminds me of my grandparent’s generation–while we remember their homemade ‘everything,’ they welcomed canned & ready-made products with open arms. Cooking sure can be a chore sometimes. We do it because we have a passion for it, but I imagine not everyone felt that way back then. Actually, few people probably felt the way we feel about food back then. The last thing my grandmother cooked for me before she passed was homemade fried chicken. She opened up a can of green beans to serve with it, and I swear those canned beans were so darling in her eyes. If not merely because she did not have to can them herself.

    I once made a raw dessert (ick) with figs and orange and it was lovely. I can imagine the flavor combo would be great in a jam!

    P.S. I want that photo of the basket of figs on my kitchen wall. Do you sell? πŸ™‚

  13. LiztheChef — July 14, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

    I have made Cathy Barrow’s fig jam – next batch I’m adding the oj and Cointreau – great idea!

  14. Aggie — July 14, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

    Figs remind me of my grandfather. He had so many trees in his backyard, up in NY and down here in FL. Since he moved in his new house he has just a little tree…and I’m really missing the figs. Your pictures are making me wish I had a spoon and some brie!!

  15. jaclyn — July 14, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

    want to know something shameful? i haven’t had figs since i first tried them as a very picky eight year old. i didn’t like them back then, but i think it’s time to give them another chance!

    brie is one of the few cheeses i actually like (i know, i’m a weirdo!), so this combination sounds so lovely!

  16. Snippets of Thyme — July 14, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

    That looks really good. Really.really.good. Whenever I see fig jam, I snatch up a jar without hesitation. I should try to make my own. I haven’t seen figs, though, around here yet. I wonder if they grown in Texas in the summer? I’m going to the farmer’s market this Saturday and I’m going to keep my fig eyes open.

  17. Winnie — July 14, 2011 @ 10:48 pm

    Fantastic MJ. Dying to make this recipe now πŸ™‚

  18. sweetsugarbelle — July 15, 2011 @ 4:53 am

    The moment you said fig you had my attention. I LOVE FIGS! LOVE them. They are my favorite fruit. I’m actually very envious of your neighbor’s fig tree! I buy fig preserves regularly, but this is on my list to try. I am working up canning nerve. Reading about all of the fun summer canned goods has really piqued my interest! This was TRULY a gorgeous post. Thank you!

  19. chinmayie @ love food eat — July 15, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

    Gorgeous looking jam! I love fig! i wish i had a friend who gave me a huge bucket of figs! If I ever get more figs that I can eat I shall try your recipe πŸ™‚

  20. Shellina Guthrie — July 17, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

    Love this idea. I’ve never canned anything- I might need to try it.

  21. What a lovely post. I have never canned anything, but I’ve been thinking about trying some jam! This jam is absolutely gorgeous!

  22. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — July 20, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

    Lovely… The flavors in this jam sound amazing. Really loved reading your post, too… Beautifully written.

  23. Ashley — July 23, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

    Inspired by your post I have a pot of fig and plum preserves simmering away. Thank you!

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