Luscious Irish Pears
The Pear Orchard
We planted the first part of our pear orchard in 2010. It is a small plot of a couple of hundred trees, and we have planted some very tasty dessert pears, such as ‘Williams’, ‘Concorde’, ‘Durondeau’, ‘Conference’ and of course the queen of pears ‘Doyenne du Comice’. I have selected the varieties both for flavour and hardiness. Pears are not a common crop in Ireland, because they struggle with our often harsh Spring and cool Summers. Years of good crops are interspersed with years of little or no crop, and this is why they are not very economical to grow, and are therefore more expensive than apples, and are naturally more expensive than pears imported from sunnier climes. However when the trees give a crop, they yield fruit far tastier than any of the tasteless imported pears which are ubiquitous in the shops and supermarkets.
Growing pears has allowed us to also start producing pure pear juice, which is quite an unusual product, and very sweet and delicious!
For many years, even though I had become quite aquainted with the art of cider making, I deliberately shied away from the idea of making perry. It is quite tricky to get right, and things can go wrong much more easily than with cider. But when it is right, it is a wonderful, delicate, fruity and delicious drink. Perry is essentially pear wine, though it is often incorrectly (and disrespectfully!) referred to as ‘pear cider’. True perry is a little known drink, and its production is confined to very small geographical enclaves in only a few regions of the world, namely Herefordshire and surrounds, in the UK, parts of Normandy and Brittany in France, parts of Eastern Austria, and parts of Southern Germany. A few years ago I finally decided to rise to the challenge of perry making, and after a few seasons of experimentation, using pears suitable for perry making, I am really encouraged by the results I’ve achieved, and by the feedback I’ve been getting from those who have tasted it.
From 2013 to 2015 I collected scionwood from dozens of perry pear varieties and grafted them onto young trees. Finally in late 2015 we have planted our first perry pear orchard, populated only with special perry pear varieties. Most perry pears are not pleasant to eat because of their hardness, bitterness, or sourness, but it is these very qualities that are essential to produce rich and delicate perries, which simply cannot be made from bland dessert pear varieties. Because, uniquely, we have raised our perry pear trees grafted onto dwarfing quince rootstocks, we hope to be able to harvest crops from the young trees in a few short years, rather than having to wait the usual 15 or 20 years from more traditional tall perry pear trees.