Q: What is your background?
A: I’m a chef, a dietitian, and a menu planning and recipe development consultant for K-12 schools. I also consult with food brands and commodity boards on their K-12 marketing programs. I’ve been working on child nutrition programs for over 10 years.
Q: Is there a fit for canned pears in to-go and pre-packaged items?
A: Absolutely! Students of all ages enjoy the taste of this familiar canned fruit. At the school district that I’m consulting for now we are finding that canned pears are not only versatile as an ingredient, but they pair well as a side dish with any entrée. And with the current unexpected ingredient shortages that require us to pivot and change up our entrée and snack menus quickly, canned pears save time and help us manage labor. For example, canned pears are a go-to fruit for our afternoon snack program because they go well with yogurt, string cheese, granola, and milk for those pre-packaged snacks.
Q: Do you find that canned pears are a good fit in savory menu items?
A: Yes, canned pears complement savory ingredients in all types of sandwiches, wraps, flatbreads, and bowls with a subtle sweetness.
Right now, I am working on how to handle the predicted higher cost of brown sugar, so we are testing ways to use the juice from canned pears and other canned fruit to add subtle sweetness to entrees. I’ve been working with U.S. grown canned pears for a few years and am familiar with how versatile the juice can be in hot and cold sauces, dressings, baked goods, and beverages.
For our high school menus, canned pears are popular in grab-and-go salads and incorporated into wraps. For the older students we offer a build-your-own bento box meal that includes canned pears and it’s very popular. There’s just not enough time to develop new menu items right now, but we are working on a build-your-own burrito “bento” style, and students can choose canned pears as a filling for their burrito or as a side.
Q: What are a few things people should remember about U.S. grown canned pears?
A: U.S. grown canned pears are available year-round to K-12 schools through the USDA Direct Delivery Brown Box program or distributors.
All U.S. grown canned pears are the Bartlett variety. That is the only variety that is commercially canned in the U.S. because it holds its shape, which adds to its versatility on menus.
Nothing else is added to a can of pears except pears and the poaching liquid.
In addition to the ripe and ready pears in the can, remember to use the juice or lite syrup in smoothies, sauces, marinades, soups, salad dressings, and baked goods.