Sliced fruit, especially apples and pears, often get discolored and soggy when cut and left out in the open and exposed to air for too long. There are tips and tricks, however, that prevent sliced apples and pears from turning brown, allowing them to be cut and prepared ahead of a meal or occasion. If you're preparing several dishes or a large quantity of food, consider preparing as much as possible in advance and save the final touches or prep work for the hour or two before your party begins. While apple and pear juice can be kept from going brown, it is best to drain the fruit and keep the natural fruit juice separate from the fruit. The natural fruit juice should not turn brown on its own and will store in the refrigerator, covered, for a week or two.
Can You Cut Pears Ahead of Time?
Yes, pears can be cut ahead of time. To ensure that pears and apples do not get soggy or turn color too soon, do not cut them more than two hours in advance of serving. If the pears are macerated, or if sugar is added to the pears while their still sitting in their natural fruit juices, the fruit will last longer and become sweeter the longer they sit in the fridge. Once cut, pears should be refrigerated where they will last up to four hours, if properly stored. To store well, wrap the cut fruit tightly in cling wrap or aluminum foil, then place it inside a sealed container or bag. Cut pears can also be frozen for up to a year without going bad or changing colors.
How to Keep Pears From Turning Brown
While many believe that simply squeezing lemon juice over sliced fruit will prevent it from turning brown, the juice often does not coat the slices thoroughly enough to help much. Improve this approach by adding the juice of two to three fresh lemons to a large mixing bowl of water. Place the pear or apple slices in the lemon water, toss, remove and pat dry. Allow the fruit to soak in the mixture for five minutes.
Another trick is using salt water. The process is the same. Add a half teaspoon of salt per cup of water, soak for five minutes, then remove and pat dry. Pears can vary by variety as to how long they need to soak, so be sure to test a spare pear for five to eight minutes before cutting them all.
Finally, if the fruit does not need to be served fresh, it can be cooked. Blanching cut pears and apples will keep them from turning brown. Cook the fruit for three to five minutes until its juice is reduced. Pour the cooked slices into a large bowl of ice water. This immediately halts the cooking process and prevents any change in color.
How to Keep Fruit Fresh After Cutting
One of the simplest ways to keep fruit fresh after cutting it is to place the slices in a bowl of water and then put them in the fridge. This works well for avocados, in addition to apples and pears, though a squirt of lemon is always a good idea for sliced fruit.
The canning company, Ball, makes a Fruit-Fresh powdered product that contains citric acid. Similar to adding lemon or lime to water, when mixed with water this helps keep fruit fresh after cutting.
If the variety of pear that is being used is especially juicy, try wrapping them in paper towels before tightly covering them in aluminum foil or cling wrap. The paper towels help to wick any extra moisture the slices yield while they're stored in the refrigerator. This trick is also great for strawberries and salad greens.