If you search on-line for “pear and blue cheese” you’ll find countless recipes featuring these two fabulous ingredients, and everyone agrees on what a perfect pairing it is! “Flavor combination made in heaven”, “classic pairing”, “delectable accompaniment”, “beautiful pair” … these are a few of the descriptions you’ll see in what you read.
The secret is in the science, as explained in this article “The science behind our seemingly-weird food combinations” by flavor chemists Joe Peragine and Paul Breslin. Fat, salt and acid make for a great combination: the blue cheese contributes the fat and the salt; the pear brings a bit of the acidity. Add some sweetness by baking, caramelizing or roasting the pears or adding honey, and some nuts for the nice crunchy feeling that gives recipes that extra quality. Et voilà… you have a delightful salad, sandwich or tart! For the nuts, consider toasted walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts, or even candied nuts!
Now that I have shared this “secret”, you’ll see that a lot of the recipes featured at the links below include these components. But before I share the recipes, let’s talk a minute about pear’s favorite partner.
Did you know that blue cheese is at least 2,000 years old? Indeed, Wikipedia tells us that “Roquefort is mentioned in texts as far back as 79 AD.“
Blue cheese, made with cow’s and/or goat’s milk, is distinguished by its blue/green veining, which comes from the addition of a mold (penicillium roqueforti) during the cheese-making process. Here’s a great video “How It’s Made – Blue Stilton Cheese” that shows you how it’s made.
The mold develops as it comes into contact with air, and gives blue cheese its characteristic flavor. Well- known blue cheeses include Gorgonzola (Italy), Roquefort (France), and Danish blues… and Vermont is fortunate to also have wonderful blue cheeses like Bayley Hazen Blue (Jasper Hill Farm) or the Big Blue (Plymouth Artisan Cheese), just to name a few. Flavors range from fairly mild (Gorgonzola Dolce) to strong and pungent (Roquefort).
For more information on cheese molds, you can also read the NY Times article “That stinky cheese is a result of evolutionary overdrive“.
A Brief History of Pears
History says that pears first appeared in Central Asia and were cultivated in China 4,000 years BC. By the time they arrived in Europe they were already being eaten raw, cooked or dry. France first saw pears in the 16th century, where they were made popular by Louis XIV.
Many varieties of pears are available, in a full range of colors, contours, textures and flavors. Best known to us are the Anjou and the Bartlett, but for cheese plates, we also love the Forelle pear, with its lovely red skin color and small size. It looks simply beautiful on the board!
The Bartlett pear has a fun background story. It was first planted in the US in 1799 on the Thomas Brewer Estate in Massachusetts, which later became the estate of Enoch Bartlett. Once noticing the pears, he gave them with his name and introduced them to the US market. It was about 30 years before anyone realized that the Bartlett pear was in fact the same variety as the Williams pear well-known under that name in the rest of the world!
For more on the various varieties of pears, see: Pear types by Stemilt Growers.
Pears are picked when mature, but not yet ripe, and should be left a few days at room temperature to fully ripen. That is when they become the sweet, juicy fruit with the delightful floral fragrance we love so much.
Let’s Pair Them up!
I admit I haven’t yet tried these recipes, but I’ve selected the ones which appeal to me and which had good ratings.
- Arugula, pear and blue cheese salad with warm vinaigrette
- Griddled pear and blue cheese salad
- Pear and blue cheese salad (My Recipes.com)
- Pear, blue cheese and caramelized onion panini (Cooking Light)
- Prosciutto, pear and blue cheese sandwich (Cooking Light)
- Quick, easy prosciutto and pear sandwich (Cooking Light)
Tarts, Bruschetta and Flatbreads
- Pear and blue cheese flatbread
- Caramelized pears and blue cheese Gorgonzola tarts
- Pear chutney bruschetta (My Recipes.com)
- Hazelnut pear blue cheese tart (looks so nice!) (My Recipes.com)