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).
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?
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
By Irvin Lin
These muffins are perfect for fall and winter when you want something comforting for breakfast. I used Harry and David’s Royal Riveria pears, but you can use regular Comice Pears or Bosc pears if you want to save the Harry and David pears to eat out of hand (I don’t blame you!). One thing to note, I used teff flour in the muffin because I think it adds a great complexity to the muffin and compliments the butterscotch flavor. Teff flour can be found at international grocery stories and online. If you can’t locate it, just substitute the same amount of whole wheat flour for it.
90 g (1/2 cup) dried tart cherries
2 tablespoons dark rum (or orange juice if you don’t want booze in your breakfast muffin)
115 g (4 oz or 1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup (8 oz or 240 ml) cold buttermilk, well shaken
2 large eggs
175 g (1 1/4 cup) all purpose flour
55 g (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) teff flour or whole wheat flour
115 g (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
285 g (10 oz) pear (1 medium Comice, two small Bosc)
2 tablespoon of turbinado sugar (or brown sugar)
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line a regular sized muffin tin with muffin paper cups.
2. Place the dried cherries in a small bowl and add the rum over them, to let them plump up.
3. Place the butter in a large saucepan (preferably with a silver bottom) and cook on medium high heat until the fat particles of the butter start to brown and smell fragrant and nutty. Turn the heat off and continue to stir to cool the brown butter for a minute or two. Pour into a large heat proof bowl.
4. While stirring the butter, pour the buttermilk in a thin stream into the melted butter. This will cool the butter down. Place the eggs in the measuring cup that you used for the buttermilk and beat until uniform in color (you can’t see any egg white). In a thin stream, add the egg to the butter/buttermilk mixture while mixing.
5. Place the flours, sugar, salt and baking powder in large mixing bowl. Using a balloon whisk, vigorously stir the dry ingredients together, until they are well blended and uniform in color.
6. Drain the rum from the cherries into the wet liquids and stir together. Peel and chop the pear into 1/2 inch cubes. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of chopped pears.
7. Add the wet liquid to the dry ingredients and stir with a large spatula until just moist. If there are some pockets of dry ingredients that’s ok. Add the cherries and the pears and fold them in delicately.
8. Divide the batter into the lined muffin tin and sprinkle the top of the muffins with the turbinado sugar. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Makes 12 muffins