How to grow a pear in a bottle – and make your own pear liqueur
You will need:
- Glass bottles. If you are using big pears like Doyenné du Comice, you will need a full-bellied bottle. Narrower varieties such as Williams’ Bon Chrétien will fit in an ordinary clear-glass wine bottle.
- Plastic netting or white horticultural fleece
- Strips of gauze or muslin.
- Pear eau de vie or cider brandy
- The process has to be started as soon as possible after the flowers have been pollinated and the fruit has begun to form. Then you have to practise your own version of selection before the June “drop”, when a proportion of fruit falls from the tree naturally. Suppose you choose a branch with five fruits: remove two and use the remaining three for bottling. This should avoid your chosen fruit dropping prematurely and wasting your efforts.
- Once you’ve selected your pears, remove the leaves near the fruit. Foliage in the bottle may rot or introduce pests and diseases, as well as restricting air circulation.
- Tie a length of string around the neck of the bottle, then wrap the bottle in plastic netting. Now insert the narrow branch bearing the pear. The ideal position for the pear is just beyond the neck of the bottle so that it has plenty of room to grow.
- Wrap the string around the body of the bottle and hang it from a nearby branch, using other branches to support it. The bottle must hang upside down so that moisture and dew can drain away and nothing can fall in. Don’t hang the bottle from the branch that bears the fruit – the combined weight of fruit plus bottle could break the branch. The fruiting branch also needs to move freely in the neck of the bottle so that it does not get damaged, causing the fruit to break up prematurely.
- Protect the fruit from excess sunlight throughout the summer by wrapping the bottle in thin white horticultural fleece. Too much sun will make the fruit mature too quickly and it won’t grow as big as it could. And put a loose plug of gauze in the neck of the bottle, so that air can circulate or moisture can still drain out but insects can’t crawl in.
- Then just wait, keeping an occasional eye on the fruit for signs of rot. Once the pear is ripe it will detach naturally from the branch – for Doyenné du Comice, for example, this will be some time in October.
- Once you’ve harvested the pear in its bottle, rinse out bottle and pear with cooled boiled water: boiling gets rid of any chlorine residue in tap water that would taint the finished product. Don’t add washing-up liquid to the water for the same reason. Let as much water as possible drip out of the bottle before adding the alcohol (which will sterilise the bottle).
- Then use a funnel to fill the bottle with your chosen alcohol. Fill the bottle to normal level and push in a cork halfway down only (you’ll need to remove it easily and replace it again before the alcohol is ready to drink). Leave in a cool dark place for three months.
- This will bring you up to Christmas, but try not to succumb to temptation. Instead, top up the bottle with more alcohol or, if you prefer a sweeter taste, with sugar syrup. Make this by bringing equal quantities of sugar and water to the boil and simmering until thickened. After you’ve added the cooled syrup, shake the bottle gently to mix it with the alcohol. Then leave for another three months before taking your first sip.