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Williams pears are medium to large in size and have a true pyriform, or pear shape, which has a large rounded base that tapers to a smaller curved neck with a light brown stem. The thin skin brightens as it ripens, transforming from green to a golden yellow, and is smooth and firm with some blushing and russeting. The flesh is aromatic, moist, cream-colored to ivory, and is fine-grained encasing a central core containing a few small, black-brown seeds. When mature but not fully ripe, Williams pears are crunchy, tart, and slightly gritty, but when fully ripe, they develop a juicy, smooth, buttery texture with a sweet flavor.
Williams pears are available year-round, with peak season in the fall through winter.
Williams pears, botanically classified as Pyrus communis, are the fruits of a fast-growing tree that can reach over six meters in height and are members of the Rosaceae family along with apples, peaches, and apricots. Also known as the Williams Bon Chrétien pear, Williams pears are most commonly known as Bartlett pears in the United States and are a popular early season variety. Williams pears are favored for their unique shape, rich coloring, sweet flavor, and smooth texture, and can be used in a wide variety of culinary applications including savory dishes, desserts, and cocktails.
Williams pears contain vitamin C, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.
Williams pears are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as baking, boiling, and grilling. They can be consumed fresh, out-of-hand, added to salads for a sweet flavor, sliced into wedges and served on cheese boards, or blended into a granita to top of ice cream. Williams pears can also be layered in sandwiches such as grilled cheese, used as a topping over pizza, or mixed into yogurt and oatmeal. The pears can be smoked over a charcoal grill for added flavor or sliced to add a sweet flavor to cocktails with tequila and mezcal. Williams pears also make excellent preserves, syrups, chutneys, and can be dried or baked into cakes, muffins, crisps, and quick bread. Williams pears compliment gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, garlic, onions, shallots, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, pomegranate seeds, strawberry, apple, spinach, pork, chicken, lamb, oysters, oregano, rosemary, parsley, mint, cilantro, cinnamon, allspice, and honey. They will keep up to three weeks when stored in the refrigerator and a little over one year when stored in the freezer.
Williams pears are the most popular and most commonly grown variety of pear in the United States. Today, it makes up fifty percent of the total pear crop in the country, followed by anjou and bosc pears. Williams pears are also known as the “canning pear” because they hold their shape and have a distinct flavor and sweetness when preserved. Approximately two-thirds of the Williams pear production in the United States is dedicated to producing purees, canning halves, slices, or pieces, and for pear juice. Canned pears are widely available at supermarkets, but some consumers choose to can their own pears at home using sugar, syrups, apple juice, or water. While canning at home is an excellent way to preserve an excess amount of pears for extended use, caution should be taken to ensure that the canning and preserving process are done correctly to avoid health-related issues.
Williams pears are native to Europe and were discovered in England initially by a schoolmaster named Mr. Stair in 1765. A nurseryman named Williams later acquired the variety and introduced it to the rest of England. In 1799, Williams pear trees were imported to Massachusetts and were planted on the estate of Thomas Brewer. The estate was then acquired by Enoch Bartlett, who later propagated and introduced the pear under his own name, unaware that the variety was already established as Williams in Europe. Twenty-five years after it was introduced in the United States, it was discovered that the bartlett and the Williams were the same variety and today it is still known by the two names in Europe and the United States. Williams pears can be found at farmers markets and specialty grocers in the United States, specifically Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, Canada, Asia, and Europe.
Recipes that include Williams Pears. One is easiest, three is harder.