This recipe is a safe adaptation of the recipe for canning spiced pears from the Ball Blue Book Of Canning. When my friend Lisa E and I were making canned pears together she had some vanilla bean pods she needed to use up and she thought it would complement the flavor of the pears, so we used less of the traditional cinnamon and cloves and cooked the pears in a sugar syrup with cut up pieces of vanilla.
The addition of vanilla gives these pears a wonderful delicate taste that can be enjoyed alone, in galettes, or on yogurt (one of my favorite ways to eat them).
In this recipe it is safe to substitute different spices. If you don't like cloves, use nutmeg instead. You can use one spice, two, or as many as you like for a custom flavor. I love pears with nutmeg but Lisa prefers hers without. Don't be afraid to experiment.*
2 to 3 pounds pears per quart
whole vanilla beans
Hot Pack: Wash pears; drain. Cut into quarters or halves; core and peel. Treat to prevent darkening (highly recommended). Make a light syrup (we used a 30% syrup last year and a 20% syrup this year. You don't have to use a syrup at all, but I recommend it because it helps preserve the texture and the color.) Cut up a whole vanilla bean into approximately 3/8" pieces and add them to your sugar syrup. Splitting the bean down the center will help release the vanilla seeds into the syrup. Keep syrup hot.
Cook pears one layer at a time in syrup for 5 to 6 minutes or until hot throughout. Put a small piece of cinnamon bark (about a 1/2" to 5/8" piece) and 3 to 6* cloves in each hot jar. Pack hot pears into hot jars leaving 1/2" head space. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two piece caps. Process pints 20 minutes, quarts 25 minutes, in a boiling-water bath canner.
Recipe note: Remember that cinnamon and cloves will get stronger the longer they are in the jars so if you like a much spicier flavor, add more, but we used only three cloves per jar so that the vanilla (much more expensive) is the main flavoring. The vanilla accents rather than hides the pear flavor.
*If you are ever concerned about whether or not a substitution in a canning recipe is safe, always call your local Extension Service to find out. Generally substitutions are discouraged but with many recipes it is safe to alter spices as they don't change the PH of the food and account for a very small percentage of the total volume of your ingredients.