Brits have always had an affection for the pear. By the mid-17th century, Britain had about 64 varieties. Victorian horticulturists experimented ceaselessly with the fruit, aided and abetted by the natural tendency of pear seeds to produce plants that are quite different from their parents. By the year 1842, there were more than 700 varieties grown in Britain. Today, there are about a thousand known varieties of pear.
As delicious as they are, fresh pears are tricky because they pass through their ripeness phase in a matter of hours. One day they have the texture of Masonite, and the next they can be as mushy as a Gerber purée. People have naturally looked for ways to preserve the delicate but distinctive pear taste. One use for pears is to make them into cider, an alcoholic beverage that also goes by the name perry.
Pear cider makes a nice change of pace from either wine or beer. I especially like it with lunch, where the relatively low alcohol content won't leave you drooping for the rest of the afternoon. Not to mention giving you a nice natural sugar boost for the day.
HUDSON VALLEY FARMHOUSE PERRY ($10 per 750 ml)
I'd never met a pomologist until I met Elizabeth Ryan. Pomology is the study of fruit, and Ryan holds a degree in the subject from Cornell. As owner of Breezy Hill Orchard in the Hudson Valley, she takes apples and pears very seriously. Her produce is highly sought after by New York City chefs, and her perry is developing a cult following as well.