Pear & Dried Cherries Butterscotch Muffins and a Tour of Harry & David’s Farm

by Irvin on December 5, 2011 · 46 comments

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A couple of months ago I was invited up to Medford, Oregon to tour the Harry & David orchards. I personally love to do farm tours and the chance to tour the legendary Harry & David pear orchards was too good to pass up. I’m a fan of their pears ever since I received a box of them from my friend Rita and Damon as a thank you favor for being in their wedding years ago. So I packed up my things, jumped on the short flight and found myself in southern Oregon surround by fellow food bloggers and lots of pears. I ended up coming back with a surplus of those (pears not food bloggers) and though AJ and I ate most of them straight out of the box, I did save a few to make into Pear & Dried Cherry Butterscotch Muffins, perfect for a weekend breakfast. On top of that, Harry and David were super generous, allowing me give away their collaborative project with Martha Stewart, a limited edition Harvest to Holiday Gift Basket to one of you readers! Read on for details.

I met up with my fellow food bloggers and writers bright and early to tour the orchards, led by Farmer Matt, who’s originally from Sacramento. His dry wit, humor and patience (us food bloggers can be a tiresome bunch asking ridiculous and relentless questions) guided us through the orchard as he explained how temperamental the Harry and David signature pears are. A specific heirloom varietal of comice pears, the Harry & David pear is called Royal Riveria. The original pear tree came from the Anjou region of France, but now all the pears are grown either in Medford, Oregon where they are available for five months of the year, or in South America for five other months (leaving a short month between seasons when the pears aren’t available).

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The coveted red blush on the pears has nothing to do with ripeness, but where the sun hits the pear.

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Farmer Matt explaining to us the trials and tribulations of growing pears.

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Us bloggers and writers pestering Farmer Matt with questions.

All the pears are harvest by hand (they are too delicate to be harvested by machines) and then sorted to makes sure there are no blemishes. Comice pears in general are so delicate to harvest (they have fragile skins) that they can only harvest about 10 tons of saleable pears per acre, versus 16 tons of Bartlett or Anjou pear trees. Only 40% of the Royal Riveria pears make it into Harry & David boxes, with the other 60% going to pear juice. The pears trees themselves need specific temperatures to grow fruit properly, which means that somne fields have crazy huge windmills size fans to help climate control the crops. When the temperatures get too cold in the season, they even sometimes use giant propane/butane gas tanks to shoot flames over the trees to warm them up! Who knew farming was so exciting?

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Those white pipes shoot flames in the air if it gets too cold in the fields too soon.

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I was sad as I looked out into the field of pear trees that I couldn’t find any partridges.

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Hand sorting the delicate and fragile Royal Riviera pear.

Now Harry and David isn’t just pears (though that’s still my first association with them). We took a tour of their candy facility as well, and it was pretty sweet (ha! pun intended). The head of the facility is Charlie (as in the Chocolate Factory – the coincidence was definitely not lost on us food bloggers) and he’s in charge of Research and Development at Harry and David. I think that might be one of the coolest jobs ever. Despite the huge amount of chocolate delivered to them (40,000 lbs at a time) and the large pieces of equipment (their machines pop 100 lbs of popcorn at a time) all their baked goods and treats are made by hand. As we toured the facilities we saw people hand rolling cinnamon rolls, people boxing the coffee cakes and people measuring out large amounts of ingredients. Strangely all the workers were of normal stature and no one was singing creepy Ooompa Loompa songs.

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Workers handrolling the cinnamon roll dough.

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After instagramming this apparatus, a number of friends said they wanted to move in to it.

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Charlie, head of Harry & David's R&D, Stephanie of Lick my Spoon and Dana of Dana's Treat

Their research and development area is a baker’s dream, with so many flavor extracts and ingredients I basically wanted to move in. Oh, to have the chance to be set free in that kitchen to make things! Luckily they let us bloggers play a little bit, as we dipped pears in chocolate, nuts, or sprayed them gold. I want an airbrush that allows me to spray my fruits and desserts with edible gold!

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The R&D closet full of chocolates, extracts, flavorings and so many other things to play with.

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Sara of Gingham Go, Serena from The Farm Chicks, Peabody from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, Sandy from Reluctant Entertainer and Delilah from Cool Mom Picks ready to dip pears

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Nicole from Baking Bites dipping her pear into dark chocolate.

Along with the factory tour, we got a chance to make gift bows (way harder than it looks – my bow was NOT suitable for public consumption) and package and wrap a gift baskets/towers. The gift basket packing was fun, but clearly I was not as good as I thought, since I handed it off to one of the workers and I noticed from the corner of my eye that she was rearranging what I had done. Dang it!

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The Harry & David worker in the background is trying hard not to laugh at our bow making.

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Learning to tie a ribbon on a gift tower. Whomever gets that tower, I apologize in advance.

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Note the worker on the right, staring at my basket, ready to pounce and fix my mistakes.

Of course, the meals that Harry & David provided us was just as wonderful as their pears. I got to catch up with some of my favorite people that I know from the food blogging community including Sandy from Reluctant Entertainer, Dana from Dana Treats, Stephanie from Lick my Spoon. I also got a chance to meet some new people like Melissa from Time Out Mom, Sara of Go Gingham, Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, Serena from The Farm Chicks, Nicole of Baking Bites, Delilah writing for Cool Mom Picks and Kevin writing for 1859 Magazine. Talk about a great group of people!

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Farmer Matt in the middle next to me and the other food bloggers.

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Corn soup shooter being offered to us as an appetizer.

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So Harry & David, if you want to send me this basketful of pears, feel free...

In the end I came back from Harry & David with a sense of awe that a huge company could still operate the way they do, with people hand making food and personally packaging their gift baskets. This holiday season the flavor they decided to feature is “gingerbread” and you can find it in a lot of their winter seasonal gift packages. On top of that, they are partnering with Martha Stewart for a limited edition gift basket Harvest to Holiday Gift Basket, and have generously offered to give one away to my readers! Whoo hoo!

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The Harry & David Holiday to Harvest Gift Basket

The completely contents of the basket include:

  • 6 Royal Riviera Pears
  • 3 apples
  • Deluxe Mixed Nuts (4 oz)
  • White Extra-Sharp Cheddar Cheese (5 oz)
  • Three Seed Crackers (4 oz)
  • Classic Recipe Pepper and Onion Relish (10 oz)
  • Havarti Cheese (6 oz)
  • Black Pepper-encrusted Dry Salami (8 oz)
  • Milk Chocolate Moose Munch Snack (10 oz)
  • Honey Hot Mustard (3.25 oz)
  • Milk and Dark Chocolate Truffles (4 oz)
  • Martha Stewart’s New Pie and Tart Cookbook
  • Yellow Cotton Towel

To enter, all you need to do is leave me comment below with a legitimate email address (I gotta be able to get in touch with you if you win!) and tell me what your favorite pie or tart is. Easy right?

As an added bonus, you can also tweet about this contest and get another entry. Just tweet “Win a @HarryandDavid & @MarthaStewart limited edt Harvest to Holiday gift basket. Visit @eatthelove’s post for details. http://bit.ly/HDbasket” and then come back here and leave another comment telling me you tweeted it. If you don’t let me know you tweeted it, I won’t know, so be sure to come back here and leave a comment.

The fine print – PLEASE READ.

By leaving a comment below to enter, you are agreeing to the Official Rules.

  • NO PURCHASE NECESSARY
  • VOID WHERE PROHIBITED
  • You must be over the age of 18.
  • This contest is only open to U.S. Citizens. Sorry non-US people!
  • The contest starts as of today, and will run until Monday, December 12th, 9am PST.
  • The retail value of this basket is $134.95.
  • The winner will be chosen by a randomly selected comment. All comments will be numbered and I will use Random.org to pick a random number.
  • The number of eligible comments below determines the odds of winning.
  • If there’s a problem with contacting the winner, I reserve the right to award the basket to someone else randomly chosen. So in other words, make sure you type in your correct email address if you want the basket and respond within a week to me when I contact you or I’ll give the chocolate to someone else.
  • The basket will come directly from Harry and David, so if you win, let me know when it arrives or if it doesn’t, and I’ll be sure to hassle the appropriate people.

Of course, if you happen to have a few extra pears from Harry & David floating around feel free to make these muffins. Or just save the Harry and David pears to eat out of hand and buy some other pears to make these muffins. They’re pretty fantastic.

Special thanks go to Harry & David for hosting me on this trip to Medford, Oregon. All travel, accommodations, meals and tours were provided by Harry & David. That said I was not compensated otherwise for what I wrote above and everything I have written is my own opinion.

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Pear Dried Cherry Butterscotch Muffins


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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

RJ December 5, 2011 at 5:07 am

Love Harry & David products and my favorite pie is Blueberry.

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Mary-Kate December 5, 2011 at 5:18 am

That basket is incredible! I’ve only tried H&D’s moose munch before, the other products (especially the pears) look amazing too. I used to sell pies at a farmers market here in MA, and my favorite that we made was the strawberry pineapple rhubarb with sauteed caramelized pineapple chunks.

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Evelyn R December 5, 2011 at 5:24 am

My favorite pie is apple crumb…..thanks for the awesome giveaway!!!!

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Belinda @zomppa December 5, 2011 at 5:25 am

Such magic in the factory!! I LOVE that handrolling the cinnamon rolls. And really, anything with butterscotch takes me over the edge.

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Katya December 5, 2011 at 5:54 am

Ohhh rhubarb. But custard of any kind isn’t far behind.

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Leslie E December 5, 2011 at 6:41 am

I love Harry & David. I just sent a Tower of Treats to my company’s LA office last week, so I love knowing that it has all been put together by hand, with such attention to detail.

Also, my favorite pie (right now) is cherry, but I love a pear tart too.

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The Suzzzz December 5, 2011 at 7:49 am

Havarti cheese and pears? Count me in! nachista at yahoo dot com

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The Suzzzz December 5, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I have no idea what my favorite kind of pie is. I mean after all, IT’S PIE! So it is easier for me to say which ones I don’t like…baked pumpkin, pecan, and mincemeat. Everything else I love.

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Megan December 5, 2011 at 8:50 am

That looks like so much fun ! And the chance to win a gift basket? Yes, please! Thanks Irvin!

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penny December 5, 2011 at 11:39 am

Favorite pie? Sour Cherry hands down. With a giant scoop of ice cream.

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elizabeyta December 5, 2011 at 11:50 am

Wooo! Flavors of home!

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merri December 5, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Hmm my favorite pie… either lemon merigne or apple (homemade only). I had a good marionberry one the other week for thanksgiving. i’ll try basically any pie so long as it’s not pumpkin or containing any allergicy nuts. :) yum! however, after this post, i’m craving a muffin.

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merri December 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm

ok, ps just tweeted that

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Allison December 5, 2011 at 1:14 pm

My favorite pie is Cranberry & Pear with Granola Topping! Love the recipes and your blog … thank you for inspiring me everyday to bake more. XO

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Lori @ Lemons and Lavender December 5, 2011 at 1:23 pm

It’s hard to choose one favorite pie, but I would never turn down a fresh olallieberry pie. Ever.

Thanks for sharing Harry and David with us. Their pears are the best. And your muffins look pretty darn good too!

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Lori @ Lemons and Lavender December 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I tweeted about your give away.

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Maddie December 5, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Love Harry and David (not to mention Martha) so this couldn’t be a better combination! My favorite pie is definitely chocolate cream pie, with homemade whipped cream and plenty of chocolate shavings…yum

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Ker December 5, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I love French silk pie, actually, and I can’t find it where I currently live! Thanks for the giveaway!

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Samantha December 5, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Lemon Meringue ! Well honestly I love the meringue part so much that whatever is on the bottom is largely irrelevant. Why don’t all pies have meringue on them?

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soopling December 5, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I love lemon tarts!

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Jenna Meyer December 5, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Pear-Rosemary Gruyere pie
perfect for Fall and Harry and David’s!

**fingers crossed**
Jenna

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Chi Chi December 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Mmmmm pears!

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Margaret December 5, 2011 at 7:39 pm

My favorite is strawberry pie. :) Thanks for the chance to win!

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Jazmin December 5, 2011 at 8:01 pm

What I would give for a fresh, juicy, honey-sweet pear to eat right out of hand! They aren’t really in season anymore up here in Canada :( strike two for living in the wrong country, since I can’t even enter this contest…

My favourite pie has to be rhubarb!

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Stacey December 5, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Ooh my favorite is fruit tart with a TON of fruits on top!

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Jay Geneske @ LocalFood.me December 6, 2011 at 5:18 am

Thanks for the backstage offer and for presenting a give-away. I love the idea of butterscotch and pear going together. Do you think it would be good with cranberries in place of cherries? Blueberries?

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Reign December 6, 2011 at 7:43 am

you inspire me! thanks, just tweeted!

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Lawyer Loves Lunch December 6, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Oh man, the tour looks fantastic. I am a huge fan of H&D baskets. Every now and then, a client sends one to the firm. I live for those days at work :) Favorite pie is lemon meringue :)

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Dawn December 6, 2011 at 2:03 pm

I love Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate Cream Tart. Made it for Thanksgiving, and I gotta say, it was a little weird hearing my dad moan in pleasure like that while he ate it…

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Annie December 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Just ONE pie? Pie is my favorite.

Okay, my favorite is probably a pumpkin pecan pie that was in Food and Wine some years ago. I can never make it nowadays because I’m the only one here who likes pecan pie and I’ve already had too much pie. ;D

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Annie December 6, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Oops, it asked for my email but I don’t know if you can see it. It’s eas239 at hotmail.com.

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Adrian December 6, 2011 at 8:30 pm

I love that they let you get down and dirty with the pears and the chocolate. Great opportunity for sure Irvin to visit this farm.

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Leslie N December 6, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Cherry pie is my favorite! We loved our tour when we visited Harry and David (it wasn’t as extensive as your tour)…we loved the tasting along the route.

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Sarti December 6, 2011 at 9:09 pm

I love the layering of the muffin. I can imagine how tastes combine after just small bite :)

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Mary Withrow December 7, 2011 at 1:42 am

Fantastic! I was looking for Harry and David and found you and a chance to win! I will Tweet @MaryWithrow1 ! Thanks So Much!
Mary

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Mary Withrow December 7, 2011 at 1:49 am

I tweeted for you on Twitter! Also I forgot to say that I love Cherry Tarts!
MaryWithrow1
http://twitter.com/#!/MaryWithrow1/status/144352041656008705

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inateacup December 7, 2011 at 6:30 am

One of my best childhood memories was opening all the little boxes in the Harry and David’s tower my parents used to get from one of their friends every Christmas. But favorite pie? Fresh cherry with two layers of crust, hands down.

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Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen December 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm

My favorite is peach pie, with blueberries as a close second. Those two fruits are the only reason I tolerate summer :)

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Allison December 7, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Hmmm… favorite pie or tart? Not to kiss up or anything, but I’m still madly in love with that Boozy Blueberry Cherry Red Wine Pie you made at the Pie and Pie party you had in LA earlier this year… ^_^

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der James December 7, 2011 at 11:58 pm

those muffins look great. they remind me of my two favorite scones, one from way back in my new orleans days–dried cherry almond–and the other from bakesale betty in oakland–pear ginger. yum!

my favorite pie is part of our family legend. there’s a restaurant on the mississippi river called elsah landing in a small town in illinois, just north st louis. their blueberry peach pie is etched in the collective memory of our family’s taste buds.

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Sumayya Jamil December 8, 2011 at 7:46 am

These are just delicious – I love anything with dried cherrries – not only do they have a potent cherry flavour they resound a kind of a almondy essense, the kind that reminds me of this cherry almond shampoo i used in my childhood. Pear and cherry is an interesting mix of textures too! good stuff. Recently I put together a very unusual combination of cherry, apricot and cardamom – recipe is on my blog! Keep it comin’!

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Laura December 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Sounds like an awesome place to tour sometime!!!Count me in…

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Joanna December 9, 2011 at 6:02 am

French Silk Pie, the kind with raw eggs. Really, it’s just eggs, butter, sugar, and chocolate, whipped to magical creaminess. It’s my official Birthday Pie– and really, it’s a good thing it’s only permissable once a year, as it’s too dangerous to eat more often than that.

Blueberry pie follows close on its heels. And then pecan.

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Elle December 9, 2011 at 11:33 am

Hands down, the favorite pie of moi is Plain Old Apple Pie, made with fresh apples, and – unthickened…just apples (with a bit of cinnamon & sugar and a dab or 2 of butter) in a perfect flaky crust.

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Chelsea December 9, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Coconut cream pie!!!

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Denise December 9, 2011 at 9:37 pm

I’m sure you did just fine with the ribbon. Can’t get over the amount of extracts they have! Unbelievable how multiple flavors can be bottled up in a few ounces. My favorite pie would have to be a strawberry rhubarb & chai spiced streusel topping. Perhaps with a big scoop of ginger ice cream? (:

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