I noticed this week that eucalyptus was being sold in the farmer’s markets downtown. I originally thought that fresh eucalyptus would be near impossible to find in Chicago, so I wasn’t planning on doing this recipe anytime soon. I decided to stay the night at the boyfriend’s place last night so that I could stop by the farmer’s market a couple blocks from his place this morning (and far closer to my own home). I just couldn’t bring myself to carry a bunch of eucalyptus with me through work and classes during the week.
I got this gargantuan bunch of eucalyptus for $4.00. It filled 2 vases, one big and one small, and was enough for cooking. Plus, I ended up throwing half of it into the dumpster because I couldn’t figure out what to do with the rest.
On to the recipe! What we have here is a hallowed out ball of Anjou pear encased in eucalyptus gelee, with olive oil in the center and garnished with mint and crushed black peppercorns.
I started with the eucalyptus gelee. I picked 20 grams of leaves and brought them to a boil in a pot of water, salt, and sugar.
I then let the leaves steep for about 45 minutes while I went to work on the Anjou pears. I first set up a bowl of water and lemon juice that I would put my pear balls into while I worked to prevent them from oxidizing. I’m sorry if any part of that sentence sounded just plain wrong. Then I peeled the pears and used a melon baller to remove 8 pear balls. Once I had my balls, I used a smaller melon baller to hollow out the center of each of my pear balls. I apologize if any part of this paragraph sounded just plain wrong.
Once I had my pear balls, I cooked them briefly in water, sugar, and dry white wine (I used a $10.00 bottle of Chardonnay).
I then reserved the balls with their cooking liquid in the fridge. Meanwhile, my eucalyptus was done steeping. I poured the eucalyptus liquid through a chinois and discarded the leaves. I then mixed in some sheet gelatin and poured a tiny bit of the mixture into a 4″ x 6″ pan lined with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap is important because later I had to pull the gelee out in one piece. Although the book doesn’t mention this, I also had cut out a piece of cardboard and put it between two layers of plastic wrap so it would be easier in the end to pull the gelee out in one piece. I had problems in the past doing this and have the entire thing just fall apart.
I let the gelee set in the fridge for about 45 minutes and it was ready. The book says it should take an hour, but mine took less time. I then added the pear balls and some more eucalyptus liquid, and returned it to the fridge to set. Finally, I added the remaining eucalyptus liquid so that it came up just to the brim of the pear balls. The book only adds to liquid in 2 steps instead of 3 like I did, but I opted to break it down some more because I knew it would be difficult to pour all the remaining liquid in at once and not have the balls swim through it or turn over while I was transferring the pan to the fridge.
Once it was all set, I carefully removed the gelee from the pan. I used a small round cutter to remove the pear balls from the gelee and set them on the utensils they were to be served on.
While I was at the farmer’s market, I also picked up some fresh mint to garnish the pear/eucalyptus balls. The book calls for zuta levena instead of mint here, but in another recipe it specifically suggests mint as a replacement, so I decided to work with that. I also crushed some black peppercorns with a mortar and pestle and put some olive oil into my food syringe for the centers. Garnishing done, here was the final product:
Overall, I liked how this turned out. My only complaint is that the eucalyptus gelatin had an strong earthy smoky flavor that I wasn’t expecting and I don’t think was intended. If I did this again, I would probably steep the leaves for less time. And for the record, I think this is the first recipe where everything went right the first time.